“Forget the reactor. Forget all the bull$#!^ Facebook posts about how radiation is melting the starfish and mutating our sushi. Forget about what it means to be a disaster, and discover what it means to be Fukushima.”
Filmmaker Cameron Anderson is on a mission to show the world the real Fukushima. Having spend months exploring the region, he – an outsider arriving long after Fukushima became known the world over as the centre of a tragic nuclear accident – has come to learn what Japan’s third-largest prefecture is really all about. Cameron has also seen how the news, careless comments shared via social networks, and a general fear of the unknown have caused people around the globe to label this land as a giant, black spot on the map of Japan, with stories popping up online every few weeks about tides of non-existent radioactive seawater and the prefecture’s potentially hazardous exports.
Hoping to obtain a special filmmaking grant, it is Cameron’s plan to put together a 10-minute documentary that explores this vast, rich part of Japan and introduce some of its genuinely remarkable residents–both Japanese and foreign. But he needs your help.
Having lived in Fukushima Prefecture for five years – both before and after the events of March 11, 2011 – it has and always will have a very special place in this writer’s heart. A drive across the prefecture can feel like visiting a handful of different countries in a single day as you follow the bright coastline with its sandy beaches, emerge from a mile-long tunnel to discover yourself surrounded by vast, lush forest, and moments later gasp as a giant, snow-capped mountain is reflected perfectly in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Inawashiro, albeit until someone zips across it in a motorboat or kids in bathing suits start splashing around.
But whenever I speak fondly of Fukushima, my friends and family both back home and here in Tokyo usually fall quiet or respond with things like, “Yeah, it’s such a shame what happened…” And many of my Japanese colleagues seem genuinely shocked when I share my desire to go back for a visit.
“Aren’t you worried about the radiation? Surely it’d be on your mind the whole time you’re there?” they ask, forgetting that, if my face were to melt and my hair to fall out the moment I stepped over the border into Fukushima, those in neighbouring Tochigi and Ibaraki Prefectures wouldn’t be much better off either. While we can blame sensationalist news reports and uninformed bloggers for painting an overly frightening picture of Fukushima, there is also a surprising amount of fear and ignorance within Japan itself, and it is slowly eating away at the prefecture and its people.
Thankfully, film makers like Cameron Anderson are trying to change the way people think about Fukushima by giving them a glimpse of its rich and diverse culture and people in a new documentary he is hoping to make with backing from Storyhive , a community-powered funding site powered by communications giant Telus, that grants a lucky few the cash they need to make their creative projects a reality.
Vancouver-based filmmaker and Storyhive hopeful Cameron Anderson
Cameron spent 10 weeks in Fukushima last year, staying with his friend Max, an English teacher who is based in Aizu-Wakamatsu. After taking in some of the sights and sounds the prefecture has to offer and meeting with a number of genuinely inspiring people – doctors, locals who took in cats abandoned after the earthquake, even fellow foreigners who have found themselves in the prefecture for work and have fallen completely in love with the place – he decided that people on the outside really needed to see the real Fukushima.
With the $10,000 grant he’s hoping to receive from Storyhive, he wants to return to Fukushima and put together a 10-minute documentary about all of the incredible things it has to offer. But of course, he can’t win that grant without the support of the net-using public. While the cash itself would all come from the group, he needs one thing to get at it: votes.
“One hundred percent of the winners will be determined by votes,” Cameron told RocketNews24, “You do have to sign up with your email, but there is no newsletter, junk mail, or anything like that. They just want to ensure that each voter is a real person.”
But what exactly does the young filmmaker intend to do with that cash? Here’s a little look at what Cameron is proposing to do with his film and how the idea came into being.
“I’ve been involved in the arts my whole life, first as an actor and now as a filmmaker,” Cameron told us via email. “I graduated from film school with a diploma in Documentary Production, and have since been working on small projects and taking my camera everywhere. When I heard that Telus, the phone/internet/tv giant out here in western Canada was offering grants to local filmmakers, I jumped on the opportunity to try to get this story out there.”
Although funding is Cameron’s main goal at the present moment, it’s clear that this project means a lot to him on a personal level, and that he has a real story to tell.
“With a bit of funding, I feel that I could make something that would really show off Fukushima and challenge some of the conceptions around the safety and liveability of the area. I also think that the Western perception of Fukushima is of an irradiated wasteland, not the amazing, diverse, historically important and culturally vibrant place that I came to know and love. I don’t want to downplay the importance and scale of the disaster, but I do want to highlight everything else that makes Fukushima so grand, and a worthwhile place to visit.”
If you’d like to help Cameron make his film a reality, and just maybe help a prefecture that is struggling not just with rebuilding and moving on emotionally but shaking off an image that is arguably far more toxic than anything you’ll ever encounter during a visit to this stunning and diverse region, then head over to Cameron’s page on Storyhive and give him your vote . Voting closes on April 27, so be sure to head over soon.
In the meantime, we’ll leave you with just a sample of the many locations within Fukushima that Cameron had a chance to visit and hopes to return to bigger, stronger, and with full funding should his film win the grant it deserves.
All images by Cameron Anderson