By RYOKO NAKAMURA
RAFU JAPANESE STAFF WRITER
From anti-nuclear activists to concerned citizens, approximately 70 people, young and old, gathered at Alvas showroom in San Pedro on Nov. 2 to watch “A2-B-C,” an award-winning documentary directed by American filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash.
Dance 4 Oceans, an environmental volunteer group that raises public awareness about trash pollution in the ocean, hosted the event.
Kanna Jones, the founder, said she initially thought attendance was going to be much lower, mentioning that when she told people about this event, they seemed uninterested. “They didn’t mean that they didn’t care, but they don’t want to see anymore.”
Although people prefer to view the 2011 Fukushima disaster as a thing of the past, “it’s still going and getting even worse,” she said.
Jones shared data published in Nature and Japan Today:
• More than 100 children have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since the disaster;
• The cumulative amount of radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear power plant has exceeded that of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster;
• Post-tsunami deaths due to stress and other health complications now exceed 1,607 — the number of people who were killed in the initial calamity in Fukushima.
She emphasized the importance of continuous efforts to raise awareness about the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster as well as the danger of nuclear power plants.
“A2-B-C” is about real voices from people in Fukushima. The director, who lives in Japan, traveled to Fukushima 11 days after the disaster and documented the health effects on children and mothers struggling with fear about their children’s safety. The film shows hot spots in schoolyards, radiation detectors on children’s backpacks, and diagnoses of thyroid cysts even as the government advocates “safe Fukushima.”
Stella Cruz of Carson, who previously had limited knowledge about the disaster, said, “It’s devastating. It’s very sad and disappointing. It’s so unbelievable to me that the government is allowing this to continue.” She saw her children and herself in the film, and wiped tears from her face.
Pointing out a scene in the film in which a crying mother proclaims, “We need to get angry,” Cruz said, “Prior to that, everyone in the movie was very polite and speaking in a happy tone, but I agree with this woman. It’s time for change. It’s not time to be polite. Children are dying and cannot even pick flowers [due to radiation contamination]. It’s not okay.”
Gwen Moffett of Rancho Palos Verdes said, “It’s something that we all need to work on together and remain aware of,” adding that education is the key. “Events like this are very important because people get a chance to learn.”
Dave Rubin of Los Angeles was viewing the film for the first time, too, but he has always had great concerns about the danger of nuclear power plants.
“I know radiation there came over here through the ocean. Because there are so many nuclear power plants around the world, the same thing could happen anywhere at any time,” he warned. “We need to continue to talk about this kind of issues.”
After the screening, a panel discussion was held with Ash (who participated via Skype from Japan) and four local panelists: Beverly Findlay-Kaneko and Yuji Kaneko from Families for Safe Energy, Yoko Collin, a concerned citizen and a mother of two, and Miki Bay, an anti-nuclear activist.
Beverly and Yuji Kaneko, who recently visited Fukushima, said that the situation has changed since the filming: no radiation detectors on children’s backpacks, no children wearing masks, no radiation warning signs. Local markets were even full of fresh fish from the Tohoku area.
Despite the fact that radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is still leaking into the ocean and many countries continue to ban imports of certain food products from Fukushima, the school lunch program — funded by the Japanese government — promotes Tohoku-grown products in Fukushima.
According to Beverly’s measurement near a school, radiation detected in Fukushima was nine times higher at waist level and 11 times higher at ground level than in Yokohama. “The mothers’ worries about their children’s future are unchanged,” she said.
Ash added that parents who voice their concerns about their children’s safety and the danger of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima often become targets of bullying by other local people who are afraid of spreading harmful rumors, which they claim would damage local businesses.
Because of this trend, the mothers who appeared in the documentary have insisted that the film not be released online or on DVD. Ash said he only has their permission to show it at private screenings.
The film has been shown at 24 film festivals and has received positive responses from viewers. However, Ash pointed out that most of the audience members who attended those screenings are already interested in environmental or nuclear issues, and that capturing the attention of the general public is his current challenge.
During the Q&A segment, some tough questions were raised, such as “Why have the Japanese turned a blind eye to their own people?” Ash responded, “We need more people who actually care. People just want to pretend everything is fine, then when something goes wrong, they blame the government. We as citizens of our country have a responsibility to have a say and have the government do something about it.”
He also emphasized that the first step everyone can take is to ask the question: What can I do to help? “Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer. This is a real call for change. It’s not only about Fukushima. It is about how we use our energy and how we can change our lives. This is about all of us.”
For more info about Ash’s film, visit www.a2documentary.com.
Dance 4 Oceans hosts film screenings, lectures, and beach cleanings to raise awareness about pollution in the ocean. For more information, visit www.dance4oceans.wordpress.com or call (310) 947-4999.