by Dennis Lim.
IT has long been assumed that filmmakers should tread carefully in the wake of tragedy. Whether confronting war or genocide, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, the importance of bearing witness bumps up against the danger of trivialization and exploitation. In the annals of catastrophe cinema Japan’s triple disaster has proved to be an unusually accelerated case.
Within months of the powerful earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, which killed thousands and caused the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, there were already enough movies on the subject to constitute an all-but-instant subgenre.
The Berlin Film Festival last month featured three documentaries on the aftermath, dealing collectively with topics like the complications of the cleanup effort, the plight of evacuees and the resurgent anti-nuclear movement. Japan Society in New York marked the first anniversary with screenings of films like “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” a short documentary by Lucy Walker that was nominated for an Academy Award, and “Pray for Japan,” which its director, Stu Levy, made while volunteering in the stricken Tohoku region.
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