Category Archives: Video

Uncanny Terrain, new documentary about organic farmers facing Japan’s nuclear crisis by Tengan Rei filmmakers

Update May 6:

On May 23, filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski fly to Japan to begin production of the documentary Uncanny Terrain, about organic farmers’ response to Japan’s nuclear crisis. We’ve been consulting with experts in the U.S. and Japan about safety precautions and the questions we need to ask, as we capture the farmers’ efforts to meet this otherworldly threat with natural methods, and Japan’s efforts to preserve its food supply, its communities and its landscape.

This is a critical moment for the organic farmers just outside the nuclear evacuation zone around the beleaguered Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.  Some of the farmers have already been forced to abandon their land, their livestock, and their homes to the threat of radioactive fallout.  But many more are faced with uncertainty about the level of contamination in their soil, and they’re exploring how they can help the land repair itself.

Nearly 50 donors have generously contributed to cover our travel, but we still need your help to purchase video and audio equipment as well as radiation monitoring and protection gear, and to continue production through the September harvest. June 11 is our funding deadline, but PayPal contributions are available to us immediately.  If you can, please support the film today, and either way, spread the word by forwarding this email.  Thanks!

Japan Tsunami Charity ART show and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Benefit

The weekend before we leave, we’re participating with painter Hiromi Tanaka and musician Tatsu Aoki in a show at Creative Lounge Chicago in Wicker Park benefiting the Fukushima Organic Farmers Network, Japanese Red Cross, and the production of Uncanny Terrain.  If you can, please come wish us bon voyage and help these worthy causes.

It’s Friday and Saturday, May 20-21, 6-10 p.m. at 1564 N. Damen Ave., 3rd Floor.  $10 minimum donation includes food and drink.  Painting and video installation continues Sunday, May 22, 1-6 p.m.

Links

Following the Farmers of Northern Japan, After the Quake by Twilight Greenaway in Civil Eats

Documenting the Disaster: Words with director Junko Kajino before she heads to the devastated regions of Northeastern Japan to document the effects of radiation on local organic
farmers
by Quin Slovek in Inflatable Ferret

Uncanny Terrain in Nancy O’Mallon’s About Harvest

Directors to produce Japan documentary this spring by Ed M. Koziarski in Reel Chicago

The Story

The first sprouts are beginning to emerge on Colorsof the Seasons Farm, 45 miles from the malfunctioning Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant and 20 miles outside the evacuation zone.

28-year-old Masanori Yoshida left his job as a cook at a French restaurant in Tokyo three years ago to work his family’s land with his wife, siblings, parents, and grandmother.  They grow natural crops including ‘firefly rice,’ so named because the insects, driven near extinction by chemical pesticides and fertilizer, have proliferated as farmers return to the traditional methods practiced by their ancestors.

The Yoshidas’ farm is one of hundreds of organic farms in Tohoku, the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged region of northern Japan that supplies much of the rice and vegetables to Tokyo and across the country.  Government warnings have limited the sale of food grown there since high levels of radiation were detected in some spinach, milk and fish from the region.

“We don’t know if our crops will be safe,” Masanori says.  “We can’t ignore this issue. But we won’t stop cultivating our land.  We farmers need to nurture the environment, nature and culture, and pass them to them to the next generation.”

Noboru Saitou’s Nihonmatsu Farm is famous for cucumbers.  He also grows rice, shiitake, garlic chives, bamboo shoots, and flowers.  Noboru works closely with the agricultural city of Nihonmatsu, 25 miles from the troubled nuclear reactor on the edge of the evacuation zone.

“Today, the ‘problem’ spinach sprouted,” Noboru says. “We were supposed to ship this after it grew, but now we can’t.  After spinach is cucumber season, then rice.  When the fields are golden we will harvest the rice.  That’s the best part of farming.  After that we’ll plant canola.  Each plant yields a lot.  I hope I can continue this year.  But now I see how hard it is.”

Hiromasa Kitagawa is the unofficial leader of MattariVillage, an off-the-grid community of homes made from recycled construction lumber, powered by wind, solar and water, heated by wood fire.  The people of Mattari share the food they grow.

“We grow vegetables that you can even eat the skin,” Hiromasu says.  “We spend our time and passion to go back to the way vegetables are supposed to be grown… We aim for 100% self-sufficiency.  Soon we hope to open our community for people to experience the sustainable lifestyle.  It’s cold in winter, but spring is so green, autumn’s colors are vivid, the night sky is beautiful, the water is clear.”

After the earthquake, Megumi Kondou was evacuated from her Chitata Farm.  Megumi awaits government approval to return to her farm.  She may not be able to grow her renowned koshihikari rice this year.  Instead she’s considering growing canola, which she believes
may help reduce radiation in the soil, and is a potential source of biodiesel.

Farmers and scientists search desperately for ways to continue safely using this rich land, or restore it to its natural state.  Whether they can succeed, or whether the farmers must abandon their ancestral homesteads, remains to be seen.

After suffering the world’s only nuclear attacks in World War II, Japan emerged from poverty and devastation and entered into a period of unprecedented technological innovation and economic growth.  Can today’s Japanese respond to this catastrophe with new forms of innovation that will allow this nuclear-dependent society to continue providing healthy food to
its people, and live in better harmony with the natural world?

The Project

Filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski are embarking on the new documentary Uncanny Terrain, to follow the organic farmers of Tohoku as they contend with the threat that nuclear fallout from the Fukushima Power Plant poses to their land and their livelihood.

From spring planting season, we will document the testing of their land and crops for radiation, their efforts to adjust to the changing environment, through the harvest and beyond.

We are seeking financial support to cover our travel and living across Tohoku in the coming months, and for the purchase of highly portable, high quality video equipment to document what we find.

We will build an international online community of people interested in sustainable agriculture and energy and in the future ofJapan, through regular video updates and ongoing dialogue around the issues raised in the film.  In the end we will have a film intended for international broadcast and distribution, and around the film we will have generated a wealth of new friends, knowledge and media to address these questions in our own communities.

The Filmmakers

Ed and Junko wrote, produced and directed the psychological drama feature film The First Breath of Tengan Rei.  Erika Oda of Kore-Eda’s After Life stars as an Okinawan woman who
kidnaps the teenage son of a U.S. Marine convicted of raping her when she was a girl.  An IFP Independent Film Lab selection, Rei screened theatrically, at educational venues and festivals across the U.S., Japan and in India.

They’re developing the film and graphic novel Hand Head Heart, based on Junko’s experience growing up in a traditional extended family on a cattle farm in central Japan, and learning the sword fighting martial art kendo.

Their short film Homesick Blues, starring pop singer Zoey (now Remah) as an Osaka girl running off to America to sing the blues, won the IFP/Chicago Flyover Zone Film Festival and played the Hawaii and Chicago international film festivals.

They’ve been co-producer, line producer, production manager, production designer and assistant director on films including Wendy Jo Carlton’s Hannah Free starring Sharon Gless, distributed by Wolfe Releasing; Malik Bader’s crime mockumentary Street Thief, a Tribeca Film Festival selection released by A&E Indie; Noel Olken’s Meditations on Trafficking; Brigid Maher’s Adrift in the Heartland; Anthony Collamati’s The Acedia Thing featuring Stana Katic (Castle); Scott Cozzolino’s Dead Letters, and Wojciech Lorenc’s pilot Windy Field.

They teach producing at Chicago Filmmakers.  Ed writes about film, media and arts for Filmmaker Magazine, the Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago, and Reel Chicago.  A native of
Nagano, Japan, Junko studied film at Columbia College Chicago and Wright State University.  A native Chicagoan, Ed studied communications at Antioch College.