‘A New Moon Over Tohoku’ film review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
The big earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 were together the biggest disaster in Japan’s history since World War II. A lot of lives were lost and a lot of towns in the Tohoku Region were washed away. Despite the government of Japan’s efforts to help everyone affected by the disaster, many lives were still not improved and some of their complaints were not heard. Local Vancouver filmmaker Linda Ohama goes to the region to find out their stories in A New Moon Over Tohoku. In the documentary, Linda narrates the stories of some of the people from the Tohoku Region that were involved in the disaster, and how it changed their lives.
She began filming the documentary when she was a volunteer helping residents in Fukushima, the area of the devastating nuclear explosion caused by the 2011 earthquake. When she saw how silent the city was because of the nuclear explosion, she got her video camera and started filming. The documentary is split into sections, with each section talking about an aspect of nature in the disaster.
Throughout the documentary, Linda meets various people from the villages of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima. One of the people she meets is Kanako, a doctor who saved a lot of people when the tsunami went through her town, despite losing her own grandparents. Linda also meets a fisherman, a businessman who handled a wedding, and a present-day samurai—yes, they still have samurai and clans today. One of the key issues in the documentary is the portable houses that most of the people in the region have to live in. The portables are small, and the cities decide which portable a family lives in, interfering with their highly-valued sense of community since they may not live with their old neigbours.
Most people in the Tohoku Region are concerned about their future. They are worried that the food they eat is contaminated with radiation, and some people think the nuclear plants in their towns should be closed down. In one scene, we learn that almost all of the students and staff in one school passed away in the tsunami. The documentary teaches various things about the Tohoku Region after the disaster, and teaches about aspects of Japanese culture more generally. The epilogue of the film shows stories and updates from the people who were interviewed.
Linda’s narration adds warmth to the documentary by explaining the trauma that the people in the region had to go through. At a Q&A during a screening of A New Moon Over Tohoku at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year, the filmmaker said, “I decided from there that I had a responsibility as a filmmaker to try to give voice to the people that were living through that.” As many towns in the Tohoku Region are being rebuilt, this documentary might inspire viewers to get involved. Hopefully, Linda Ohama’s film will raise awareness and help the residents of the Tohoku Region recover from the tsunami.