Magazine article Variety

HanWay's 'Minamata' Tells Story Behind Environmental Disaster

Magazine article Variety

HanWay's 'Minamata' Tells Story Behind Environmental Disaster

Article excerpt

THE SLEEPY JAPANESE town of Minamata was the scene of one of the world's greatest environmental disasters when it was poisoned by mercury in the 1970s. It was also the setting for a groundbreaking international treaty designed to control use of the deadly metal.

U.K. sales agent HanWay Films will use its platform at FilMart to unveil updates on "Minamata," its drama-thriller about the celebrated photographer W. Eugene Smith. His images from the toxic town gave the eco-disaster a heartbreaking human dimension, and put reckless big business on front pages around the world.

Johnny Depp stars as Smith, a colorful character who was a celebrated WWII photographer and later became close to jazz great Thelonious Monk. Smith ventured to Minamata near the end of his life, accompanied by his Japanese wife Aileen Mioko Smith.

"At that point, Gene [Smith] was about to give up. He wasn't sure it was worth it, but when he got to Minamata, not only did he find a story to tell, he was able to help. It was redemptive, a late life reawakening," said director Andrew Levitas.

"Smith is a unique protagonist. He had a unique way of looking at the world, he was someone who could edit and art direct his own universe, even when walking down the street ... he carried everything with him, and while in Minamata embedded himself completely in their world."

Smith's exceptional professional abilities, and his chameleon-like personality, may have been what drew Depp to the story. …

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