Festival des film du monde review: Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is a documentary portrait of Naoto Matsumura, a man who voluntarily looks after the (mostly) four-legged victims of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March of 2011. These include dogs, cats, cows, and a pony. There are some wild boars prowling around, too, though they look like scroungers, not officially under his care. And then there are the two otherwordly ostriches, with their quizzical expression and powerful legs that can break ribs.

The nuclear plant went into meltdown after an earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Humans were quickly evacuated because the radiation leak made the area too dangerous for them to remain. Many people had no idea that they would be gone so long. They tied their dogs up and planned to come back for them within a day or so. But they were not allowed to come back, and shelters did not accept dogs and cats, in any case.

Some cattle were destroyed on orders of the government, others starved to death, but some were entrusted to Naoto Matsumura, and he continues to look after them to this day. In the beginning, he bought food for them with money from his small pension, now he also gets donations from supporters. He says he wishes the government would look after the animals, that would be the moral thing to do, and it would also increase knowledge about the effects of radiation. The animals are mammals, just like us, whatever happens to them might happen to humans, too.

On a technical level, Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is not perfect. Especially in the opening footage, some bright areas are bleached out, and throughout the film, the microphone picks up many distracting sounds – truck engines, and fierce winds among them. But heart is more important than technique – watch the film to see Naoto feeding and interacting with the animals and describing his feelings of obligation toward them. He tells us how the nuclear plant changed his town of Tomioka – at first it brought prosperity, and conspicuous consumption – a car for every family member! Then came the disaster. It could take 30 years to decontaminate the town; maybe it will never be safe again. He wonders if the decontamination work is really just for show.
Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Director : Mayu Nakamura
Cinematographer : Mayu Nakamura
Editor : Mayu Nakamura
Music : Saho Terao
Film production and Sales : Prod.: Mayu Nakamura, Omphalos Pictures,Tokyo 180-0002 (Japon), tél.: +80 (80) 3408 85 30 missyn510@aol.com.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 – 4 p.m. – Cinéma Quartier Latin 2, 350 Emery St., in Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

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