That is the all-too-real backdrop of "Homeland", the first
Japanese mass-market film set in Fukushima since the world's
worst nuclear crisis in 25 years made the area's name infamous.
Shown at the recent Berlin Film Festival, the movie — called "Ieji"
("The Road Home") in Japanese — features some scenes shot in
areas once declared no-go zones by the government due to high
Despite an intense debate about whether to restart the rest of
Japan's nuclear reactors that were idled after the disaster,
director Nao Kubota said he opted to tell a human story.
"I wanted to make a film that would be relevant for a long time
to come, that people could watch in 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years
and see that this sort of claustrophobic situation came about,"
"That's what I want everyone to feel — and it's for that reason
that it's not anti-nuclear."
On March 11, 2011, a massive offshore earthquake sent tsunami
tearing through villages in northeastern Japan, setting off
meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant that
irradiated a wide swath of countryside and forced more than
150,000 people from their homes.
"Homeland", released in Japan nearly three years after the
disaster, centers on long-estranged son Jiro, who secretly moves
into the exclusion zone to reclaim the family farm.
Much is made of the difference between the temporary housing — with families who owned sprawling farmhouses now living in small
units in a long line — and the open areas in the exclusion zone
where abandoned cows roamed and empty streets were full of
"The birds were singing and we felt like we were intruding. But
despite the beauty, everything was frozen in time," said Kubota,
who has a background in documentaries.
"It was beautiful but no one could live there. In a way, there
was something menacing. You couldn't smell it, the colors hadn't
changed, and you couldn't see or physically feel it. There's
that sort of fear."
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WALKING A NARROW PATH
This contrast may have helped Kubota get across his message without
making it too obvious, said film critic Yuichi Maeda.
"Taking a camera into the no-go zone and filming there really shows
the claw marks of the nuclear accident," Maeda said. "He may say
he's not anti-nuclear but after seeing the film I think he actually
The touchiness of the nuclear issue tends to cause backers to shun
anything too critical. Even stronger reasons to tread softly are
that film revenues are falling in Japan and viewers are averse to
movies with too heavy a political line.
Other directors have faced a similar dilemma in dealing with
Fukushima. One, Sion Sono, got around it by setting his 2012 movie
"Land of Hope" in an unspecified future and the fictional Nagashima
"The moment I told (my usual investors) that this was a film about
nuclear power, they told me it was just too taboo," Sono said.
"In the end we just had to cobble together money to make it,
including from overseas," he said. "People don't want to think about
the nuclear issue."
But Kubota's "Homeland" — however subtle its message — has struck a
nerve with at least some viewers.
"Prime Minister Abe is plugging nuclear power as though nothing
happened in Fukushima," said Takashi Nakamura, 68. "The movie made
me feel there's something wrong with that."
(Writing by Elaine Lies; editing by John
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