Monday, August 29, 2016

The Seal of the Sun

“On March 11, 2011, the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake struck.”

“On that day, Japan faced the dangers of a catastrophic event that threatened a large segment of the population. The Earthquake knocked out the electricity at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear plant located in Northeastern Japan. The emergency cooling system failed and the temperature inside the nuclear reactor kept climbing. A crisis equal to the Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster was looming.”

“The power plant metamorphosed into a gigantic and menacing monster. Scientists, surprised and shocked by the crisis which quickly expanded well beyond what they had predicted, made several erroneous judgements and decisions. The Prime Minister’s office was thrown into chaos with very little accurate information available to them.”

“Meanwhile, residents were hastily evacuated, forced to say good-bye to their homes. However, a time bomb was ticking without any credible solution to the crisis. Then, the catastrophe began with the explosion of the Unit 1 building. It then cascaded into explosions inside of the Unit 2 and 3 buildings. The countdown to the complete meltdown and total destruction continued and never stopped.”

(Text from production flyer)

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

This is a docudrama about a very interesting subject: it recount, almost hour by hour, the Fukushima nuclear reactor incident that took place after the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake of March 2011. Unfortunately, what should have been an action movie had a pace way too slow to feel real. And the acting was more often than not exaggerated to the limit of parody. It was rather annoying and distracted from the story. A lot of emphasis was put on the emotion of the characters, probably in an attempt to make the viewers empathize more with their situation.

It’s a political movie set to tell the truth about the events in Fukushima, particularly the inaptitude of the government to handle the crisis and its failure to properly communicate with the company managing the damaged power plant in order to get the timely information that could have help them maker better decision. We see the events unfold from the point of view of a journalist, an assistant to the Prime Minister as well as his wife and child in Tokyo, a family of evacuees from Fukushima and their son working at the power plant.

In the presentation, the producer said (in a gibberish English) that they were proud to have used the real name of the politicians involved in the crisis (the Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his cabinet : mostly Chief Secretary Yukio Edano, his deputy Tetsuro Fukuyama, and Manabu Terata), apparently a premiere in Japan, and yet they have changed the name (at least in the subtitles) of TEPCO, the electrical company managing the power plant — possibly to avoid a lawsuit.

It’s a clearly (but quite clumsy) anti-nuclear advocacy that justly make the point that the Japanese have been made to believe by the corporate and political powers that Japan absolutely need nuclear power while there are plenty of alternatives. If TEPCO is the main culprit for having lied about the severity of the situation, and the government share this guilt for having failed to see through it and act accordingly, ultimately it is the Japanese people themselves who really are to blame for having allowed this policy to take place in the first place. Building nuclear power stations (over fifty of them!) in a country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis was shear madness. It was an accident waiting to happened. It should never have.

The photography is great but the script and editing are a little lacking. Action movies are like jokes: all is in the timing — or, in this case, the pacing. If it is quite an average movie, it is still an interesting subject and nevertheless an enjoyable entertainment.

The Seal of the Sun (太陽 の 蓋 / Taiyō no futa) : Japan, 2016, 130 min.; Dir.: Futoshi Sato; Scr.: Takashi Hasegawa; Phot.: Yukio Komiya; Ed.: Yukiko Kobayashi; Mus.: Micky Yoshino; Sound: Sinichi Yoshii; Prod. Des.: Hajime Oikawa; Prod.: Kaoru Ohtsuka; Exec. Prod.: Tamiyoshi Tachibana; Cast: Yukiya Kitamura, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Shima Ohnishi, Yuri Nakamura, Tomohiro Kaku, Kunihiko Mitamura, Daikichi Sugawara, Yu Kamio, Sota Aoyama, Kenji Anan.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 26th, 2016 (Cinema Imperial, 19h00 – the attendance was around 75 to 90 people) as part of the “Focus on the World Cinema” segment. The production team was present to introduce the screening.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

The Seal of the Sun © 2016 「Taiyō no futa」Project / Tachibana Tamiyoshi.

Video of the crew's introduction of the screening on Vimeo

(Sorry I had camera problems so it's not very good and incomplete)

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