Film of Japan's tsunami survivors to be screened in US

A documentary on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake directed by Yuka Kanno, a third-year student at Yamanashi Prefectural University, will be screened in the United States this spring.

The 21-year-old produced the documentary about her home city of Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, which was devastated by the March 11 tsunami.

The U.S. screening has been organized by Kazumi Hatasa, 55, a university professor working in the United States. Hatasa said he wants the documentary to be shown at as many places as possible throughout the country.

"I hope Americans do not forget this disaster," he said.

Kanno interviewed nine survivors of the disaster in July and August last year, including her schoolmates and 54-year-old mother, Yoshie. The interviews are featured in the 70-minute documentary.

The documentary is called "Kyo wo Mamoru" (protecting today). Kanno said the title reflects her feelings toward her work. "I wanted to capture this moment in my home city when people are trying hard to protect their daily lives," she said.

Yoshie's home was destroyed by the tsunami, and at the time of her interview she was living in a shelter for evacuees. The documentary contains a scene in which Yoshie speaks frankly about her situation. "Even among the survivors, some managed to stay with their family members, but others have lost them. People's experiences vary greatly within the shelter and a sense of unity has been lost," Yoshie said.

The documentary was first screened at a movie festival in Kofu in November. It was then shown at another six locations throughout Yamanashi Prefecture and Tokyo.

Hatasa is a Japanese language instructor at Purdue University in the state of Indiana and at Middlebury College in the state of Vermont.

In November, he found out about Kanno's documentary while watching a television program at his home in Indiana. He decided to ask his students to produce English captions so the documentary could be screened throughout the United States.

"I think Americans should know about the damage caused by the tsunami and be informed about the efforts of people who are trying to move on after the disaster," Hatasa said.

Students at six U.S. universities and colleges, including the two where Hatasa teaches, are creating English subtitles for the documentary.

Purdue University is planning to screen the documentary in April, and Middlebury College will follow suit in summer.

When asked about the strong response to the documentary, Kanno said she "didn't expect this at all."

"I am grateful that people without any ties to the disaster-hit areas feel that this tragedy should not be forgotten. I hope they watch this documentary and think about how they would feel if their friends and loved ones were victims of such a disaster," Kanno said.