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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Fukushima: is There a Way Out?"

2015/04/18 | 426 views | Permalink

It's somewhat awkward for me to watch an obviously political documentary like "Fukushima: Is There a Way Out?" While we're all familiar with the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, in part this is due to media alarmism. I don't want to downplay the general tragedy of the event- but we have to get our energy from somewhere. Watt per watt coal power kills more people and causes more negative health effects than nuclear power by several orders of magnitude. It's just that coal mine collapses are so common nobody really cares when they happen. A nuclear meltdown always gets huge media attention precisely because they're so rare.

As you can probably guess, "Fukushima: Is There a Way Out?" is all about the more unique event. And for what it's worth these stories are worthwhile enough to seriously discuss. The disaster might have happened four years ago but for the people who still have to actually live in Fukushima the knowledge that this event happened in their own communities casts a rather dark and inescapable shadow.

Director Lee Hong-Ki-I follows these Japanese citizens as they search for answers. This happens not in Japan, but in the shadow of Chernobyl. That nuclear disaster was thirty years ago. And yet just as in Fukushima, it's quickly determined that radiation levels still far exceed what we would consider to be the appropriate limit. And that's what the documentary mostly covers- the way these people have adjusted and will continue to adjust to the reality of their living in an area that was once a nuclear disaster zone.

To the documentary's credit, there is pretty clear acknowledgment that Fukushima was really more about psychological fear than discrete realities. Some of the more touching moments involve people admitting that they're frightened about what this radiation could mean for their children in the distant future. From that perspective the Chernobyl trip is understandable. These people are more or less living in the distant future of Fukushima.

From a simple informational perspective "Fukushima: Is There a Way Out?" does its job well. This is a very educational documentary that goes over the details concerning what nuclear power plant disasters mean for us, how they can be prevented, and what kind of long-term damage there is to expect. The ending as well manages to not be too polemical- it's really just a reminder that for a country like South Korea, which relies very heavily on nuclear power, these are lessons that really need to be taken seriously.

Aside from that local note of knowledge-based empowerment there's little of special relevance to be written about this documentary. By now there's so much publically available material about the Fukushima disaster that the release of this film mostly just serves as a reminder that this problem didn't go away with the headlines. Although I suppose if you're relatively ignorant of the issues involved, and would like to see some serious interpersonal dialogue between the Ukrainian and Japanese communities about a problem that quite literally only affects them, this documentary is as good a place as any to enlighten yourself.

Review by William Schwartz

"Fukushima: Is There a Way Out?" is directed by Lee Hong-Ki-I and narrated by Kim Mi-hwa.

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