Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Missing Halloween

After a wonderful week at the West Coast Premier of my documentary 'A2-B-C' in the United Nations Association Film Festival (INFO), I am at the airport and headed home to Japan... but only for a few days.  I leave for the next leg of the world tour of 'A2-B-C' one week from today for screenings in Poland and the Ukraine.

Here in the US, people are getting ready for Halloween and the decorations are out in full force.  As a child, I loved Halloween and this is one of the times each year I feel especially nostalgic since living abroad.

California and friends, THANK YOU so much for a wonderful time and for your continued support.  Much Peace and a very Happy Halloween!

My dear friends, the Kaneko Family's, cat, Sasuke, planning some tricks for Halloween

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Ethics of Photography

The amazing experiences continue this week at the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) with a beautifully curated collection of documentary films and great weather at the gorgeous Stanford University campus (PHOTOS below)... not to mention the wonderful UNAFF staff and volunteers.

On Friday, the visiting filmmakers were treated to a delicious luncheon at the Polo Club in Palo Alto, where we had an opportunity to all be in the same place at the same time and to and talk about our work while sharing a meal together.

Saturday was another inspiring day of watching films and meeting filmmakers.  I had the honour of meeting Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas (BELOW) the filmmakers behind "Tokyo Waka" (WEBSITE), a beautiful documentary that I had the pleasure of being introduced to earlier this year by a friend, and which was screened in UNAFF last year.  The film, ostensibly about crows in Tokyo, is really more about people, but I don't want to give it all away...

The highlight of the Saturday screenings for me was Willem Timmers "Framing the Other" (INFO), which follows a Dutch tourist as she travels to Africa and pays (while trying to negotiate a lower price) Mursi women and children to take their photos.  It was a stark commentary on our society, and I found it both compelling and disturbing.

The panel on the Ethics of Photography that followed the screening of "Framing the Other" was both fascinating and challenging, and brought into light the very real ethical challenges we as filmmakers and photographers face when documenting our subjects.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Planting Seeds Post-Fukushima

Yesterday, on UN Day (INFO), I had the honour of holding the West Coast Premier of 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) in the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF WEBSITE).  The screening took place in the Bechtel Conference Center of the renowned Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and it was such an honour to have Stanford faculty and students, along with members of the public, in the audience.

Following the screening, I took part in a panel discussion called "Nuclear Trade-offs".  The panel was led by Jasmina Bojic (below, left), the Founder and Executive Director of UNAFF, Martin Hellman (below, second from left), Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Standford University, and Suzan Beraza (below, second from right), director of 'Uranium Drive-in" (INFO).
PHOTO: Priya Jadeja
Prior to the screening and panel, I wondered if the discussion would turn into a heated debate, something which the topic of nuclear power can often lead to.  But my slight nervousness (captured in the pre-screening photo below with UNAFF Founder and Executive Director, Jasmina Bojic) was unwarranted:  after watching 'A2-B-C' and 'Uranium Drive-in' the discussion seemed firmly centered in how to protect people, and not about nuclear policy.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the afternoon was the joy in welcoming one of the youngest supporters of UNAFF to the screening of 'A2-B-C'.  Talk about planting seeds of change in the younger generation!

Friday, October 25, 2013

UN Day at the United Nations Association Film Festival

Upon arriving in San Francisco yesterday, I was met by a wonderful volunteer (thank you, Joyce!) from the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF WEBSITE) and hit the ground running.  "No rest for the wicked" has been the theme of the world tour of 'A2-B-C' and yesterday was no different; whisked off right from the airport to a reception at the festival.

I had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing UNAFF staff and volunteers and to meet some of the other visiting directors, such as Willem Timmers (below, left), director of "Framing the other", which screens on Saturday (INFO), and Tony Donoghue (below, right), director of "Irish Folk Furniture" (INFO), which screened last night after the reception.

The strand that "Irish Folk Furniture" screened in was about sustainability, and was beautifully curated.  Films like "The Story of an Egg" (an intelligent and fascinating short film about, well, eggs) and "Shady Chocolate", an expose of the chocolate industry, featured the foods that we eat.  "Shift Change" was an informative feature documentary about cooperatives, something I have never really even thought about.  But Tony's "Irish Folk Furniture", an unassuming, seemingly simple short film, was the highlight of the program for me, and combines amazing oral histories with gorgeous stop-motion animation.  It is clever, quirky, beautiful, funny, sweet, compelling... shall I go on?

Tony Donoghue, director of "Irish Folk Furniture" during the post-screening Q&A
The program was followed by a very compelling panel discussion about "Alternative Economic Models", led by United Nations Association Film Festival founder and executive director, Jasmina Bojic (far right, below).

I am so extremely honoured to be presenting the West Coast Premier of 'A2-B-C' today at UNAFF (SCHEDULE), even more so as today is UN Day (INFO).  Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fukushima reaches California

Yesterday, I had the great honour of presenting my work and speaking at two universities in the LA area (INFO).

In the morning, I was invited by Chapman University's Dr. Alex Bay to speak to the students in his Japanese history class that examines medicine and the body in East Asia.  The students asked fascinating questions about what the people living in Fukushima are facing within the context of what they were learning about the treatment of lepers in Japan and the discrimination of victims of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The beautiful Chapman University campus
Presenting to Dr. Bay's class
In the afternoon, I had the honour of visiting the University of California at Irvine (UCI) where I made two presentations of my work.  Sponsored by Families For Safe Energy (FFSE WEBSITE) and the Sustainability Initiative at UCI, the first of the two events was a seminar attended by Japanese studies department students of Professors Jim Fuji and Judith Kimura.
photo by U.g. Kaneko
In the evening, following a wonderful introduction by Beverly Kaneko from FFSE, I made a two and a half hour presentation to an audience of students from Dr. John Whitely's 'Nuclear Environments' class, students from the Japanese studies department, and members of the public.  The lively discussion between screening sections of 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) was a challenging and amazing experience!
photo by U.g. Kaneko
photo by U.g. Kaneko
I am so grateful to have had this enlightening time filled with wonderful experiences in LA.

Tomorrow, I leave for San Francisco where the West Coast Premier of 'A2-B-C' will be held in the United Nations Association Film Festival on Thursday (INFO).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

California Colloquium

For the past two days I have had the great honour of being a guest of the prestigious Pomona College in Claremont, California.  In addition to a breakfast meeting with film students, a class visit and an educational screening of my 2012 documentary 'In the Grey Zone' (WEBSITE), I had the honour of speaking about and presenting clips of my recent documentary 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) as part of the college's "Oldenborg Luncheon Colloquium".  The event was extremely well-attended, and the audience of students and faculty asked wonderful and challenging questions.

(photo: Cybele Kappos)
((photo: Cybele Kappos))
The Pomona College campus and buildings are gorgeous and the weather was perfect.  It was an honour to be invited here and an absolute joy to meet such engaging students and to share my work with them.  I am filled with gratitude.
"Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here."
The tree-lined streets of the campus
The college guest house where I stayed was gorgeous!
The outdoor classroom

This beautiful dining hall looks more like a church!

A beautiful courtyard on the campus

"They only are loyal to this college who departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Films, Forums, Food and Fun in Yamagata

This week in pictures at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF).  Thank you for the wonderful experiences and great memories!

Festival goers attend a panel discussion about the ethics of disaster films

Simultaneous interpretation is provided for panel discussion participants

Being interviewed by YIDFF's "The Daily Bulletin"

Green tea and roasted green tea mixed ice cream with rice cakes and sweet bean paste!

Filmmakers gather nightly at the "Komian Club"

Yamagata Prefecture is famous for its agricultural products, especially its "Fuji" apples

Camera nostalgia at YIDFF!
And the world tour of 'A2-B-C' continues as I fly to California tonight to attend the United Nations Association Film Festival (LISTING).