Magazine article Screen International

Friends after 3.11

Magazine article Screen International

Friends after 3.11

Article excerpt

Dir: Iwai Shunji. Japan. 2011. 120mins

Japan's Iwai Shunji (Swallowtail Butterfly, Vampire) is a native of Sendai, the harbour town at the centre of the enormous earthquake and resulting tsunami of March 11, 2011. Deeply affected by events, he trains his camera in a very personal take on the political and emotional fallout of this catastrophic event in Friends After 3.11, in particular the questions raised by the ongoing meltdowns at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

With extra work, in particular a sharper edit on the interviews, this could make a small impact on the festival circuit.

As the title suggests, Shunji Iwai focuses on his friends in this documentary, and it is hampered by his inability to cut their testimonies short across lengthy and often repetitive interviews. Despite this, however, this is a cumulatively affecting film and an intriguing insight into the Japanese mindset on what is becoming a growing struggle within the country. The pain of the tsunami and estimated 16,000 deaths is a powerful accelerant to the ongoing anger over Fukushima and nuclear power in general in this deeply felt piece.

Premiering at Berlin in the Forum section, Friends After 3.11 feels as if it may have raced to meet a deadline: subtitling is flawed, and there is a lack of context to help a non-Japanese audience relate to either the geographic settings as the production shuttles around the country or the or people Shunji interviews.

With extra work, in particular a sharper edit on the interviews, this could make a small impact on the festival circuit. It seems like a first sally in what could be a growing project for the director, who relates in the opening titles how he looked to his friends in the aftermath of the disaster to help him carry on, thus "Friends After 3.11".

Many of them are new friends, and the surprise of the piece is how political it gradually becomes. …

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