Thursday, Apr 17, 2014 11:29 am est

Documentary examines effects of nuclear impact

Posted on December 10, 2013 | by J. R. Hammerer

via widehouse.org

 

The Atomic Age was launched into existence with the twin strikes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which makes it ironic because today Japan is one of the leading users of nuclear power. The tiny island has the third largest number of reactors in the world.

Despite the trauma nuclear weapons wrought upon the nation, the last 40 years led to a frenzy of nuclear plant construction, bolstered by federal subsidies handed to tiny villa-ges. The 2011 Japanese tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima plant, resulting in a nuclear accident that reached the top level of the International Nuclear Event Scale. The meltdown leaft panic and mass evacuations in its wake. The only other accident to reach this level of international attention was Chernobyl.

“Nuclear Nation,” a documentary by Atsushi Funahashi, focuses on the refugees forced to flee their homes in the town of Fut-aba following the 2011 meltdown. Abandoned by the Japanese government and torn up from the roots they planted, they were confined within the walls of an abandoned high school — most have been unable to return to their homes.

The refugees recreated the town within the walls of the building, living on packaged sushi, and sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor. By the time the audience meets them, they’ve set up a hospital, welfare center and even a mayor’s office at the school. Months have passed since the meltdown, but they are living in a stasis. Public officials visit the refugees and military marching bands perform, but nowhere is there a sense that help is arriving.

Even if they receive permits to go home, there’s nothing there. The tsun-ami leveled the town before the nuclear disaster, and rescuers could not search for missing family members before the evacuation was enforced. and the film shows this slow destruction of livelihoods. For instance, one local dairy farmer has the unenviable position of being forced to care for cows that will die of radiation instead of simply euthanizing them.

The town soon rallies into a force to fight against nuclear power but, during the mobilization, they forget how they previously needed the plant to survive. One of Funahashi’s gently expressed ironies is that Futaba needed the government subsidies from building more reactors to avoid bankruptcy.

“Nation” sometimes di-verges from this focus to examine the political factors swirling around nuclear power in Japan. Funahashi doesn’t editorialize, gloomy music notwithstanding. He just turns on his camera and records the strange tone of his environment, with cows roaming the roads and families living in school cafeterias.

The wake of catastrophe is full of wreckage and the temporary forging of new lives. But with the wide presence of nuclear plants in Japan, it’s not unlikely such a disaster will happen again — potentially on a worse scale. As a warning, “Nuclear Nation” is unusually contemplative and asks the audience what happens after you’ve been uprooted once already?

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 10 print edition. J.R. Hammerer is a staff writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

Comments

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
Tatiana Baez

Assistant Managing Editor | A CAS junior, Tatiana is studying journalism, environmental science and politics. She’s a bomb editor, as well as the staff’s main source of entertainment because she sings along to every song after 12 a.m. She also writes about culture, science, technology and sex, and her work has been featured in VICE, Motherboard, Elite Daily, amNewYork and others. She enjoys eating Thai food, reading fiction and binge-watching Netflix.

And in case you were wondering how great she really is — “I just can’t get enough of Tatiana” is a direct quote from her EIC at WSN only moments ago.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next