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They say I made the Moon. (13)
Nowhere, Somewhere
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    ////////////////// Documentary Showcase \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
    I'd now like to take the time to bring to your attention two deeply moving and intellectually stimulating documentaries which deserve far more exposure. Although the films deal with very different subjects, I would recommend both as absolutely essential viewing for all.

    First is a film which I had the opportunity to see during its theatrical release in Canada, nearly a year before its shockingly limited play in US theatres (despite winning numerous international film awards). I watch a lot of documentaries, but its rare that I come across one which presents information and ideas which truly challenge my mentality. The director (and first-time filmmaker), Rob Stewart, opened my eyes to a refreshingly different view not only of sharks, but of sustainability as a whole. We all need to be more aware of the impact humans are having on the environment. Sharkwater is a milestone effort in raising this awareness.'

    For filmmaker Rob Stewart, exploring sharks began as an underwater adventure. What it turned into was a beautiful and dangerous life journey into the balance of life on earth.

    Driven by passion fed from a lifelong fascination with sharks, Stewart debunks historical stereotypes and media depictions of sharks as bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters and reveals the reality of sharks as pillars in the evolution of the seas.

    Why save sharks? What makes them so important?

    Species evolving in the oceans over the last 400 million years, have been shaped by their
    predators, the sharks, giving rise to schooling behavior, camouflage, speed, size and
    communication. They have survived five major extinctions and now they are being fished
    Many countries have no sharks left because they are being illegally harvested for
    their fins and poachers are now fishing sharks from other countries, countries that depend
    on sharks for food. But no one wants to save sharks, people are afraid of them.

    Do specials proclaiming it the “summer of the shark” because of attacks and the
    JAWS perception upset you?

    It really pisses me off. You understand where they’re coming from because a dangerous
    shark makes money and sells papers. If they tell you a shark is beautiful and perfect and
    wonderful and won’t attack you that’s only going to make news once. But if they tell you
    “Shark attack. Shark attack.” That’s news every time.
    It’s ridiculous, but you know they
    are doing it just to play off people’s fears. The reality is totally different. Half the time it
    is a small shark that accidentally bites someone’s foot. You could have gotten the same
    injury from stepping on a piece of glass. It’s crazy how the media approaches it and
    they’ve given sharks such a bad rap. It’s ludicrous because so few people get bit.

    interview with Rob Stewart (PDF)

    My greatest environmental fear is that the oceans will continue to be ignored until it’s too late. There are 2.5 billion years of evolution in the oceans, and a mere 500 million or so on land. When life evolved in the ocean, the atmosphere was very hot, full of carbon dioxide. Plants in the ocean evolved, and started sequestering carbon, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, releasing oxygen, and the planet began to cool. Over hundreds of millions of years, much of the carbon that was removed from the atmosphere was stored as oil and natural gas reserves in the Earth’s crust. Now we’re bringing that carbon out again and releasing it back into the atmosphere. We have made great jumps in our awareness regarding global warming, but we haven’t acknowledged the ocean’s role in global climate. The oceans are the greatest regulators of climate on the earth. Phytoplankton (tiny plants) in the oceans provide 70 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere, and are the greatest sink for carbon dioxide on earth. We’re now destroying the oceans, removing apex predators such as sharks, dredging the oceans; without considering that this atmosphere, our precious oxygen, and our hospitable planet, is all made possible because of life in the ocean that is part of a food chain. Food chains are sensitive, haven taken hundreds of millions or billions of years to form, and we’re destroying it.

    another interview

    The film was shot in high-definition, bringing gorgeous underwater footage of both sharks and their neighbours.

    { Official site, blog, trailer and other media, Saving Sharks }

    ~ ~

    This next film is one I discovered only through the recommendation of a friend which, after having seen it, makes me all the more determined to promote it. Like Sharkwater, it deals with the atrocious behaviour of humanity and its continued disregard for long-term, conscientious thinking. However, rather than bringing to attention our destructive impact on the natural environment, we are reminded of a chapter of human history which is all too often neglected even though it defined one of the most pressing issues we face today and for the foreseeable future. Steven Okazaki's documentary about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only teaches what school history books generally skim over (and often distort) but, through the words of survivors (and pilots), gives a true glimpse of what it was like to experience the events first-hand, to survive, and to continue struggling 60 years afterwards. Set to one of the best soundtracks I've come across, White Light/Black Rain is heart-wrenching, intellectually provocative, and relevant to many of today's most important debates concerning the likes of technology, morality, and war.

    As global tensions rise, the unthinkable now seems possible. The threat of nuclear "weapons of mass destruction" has become real and frightening. White Light/Black Rain, an extraordinary new film by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki, presents a deeply moving look at the painful legacy of the first — and hopefully last — uses of nuclear weapons in war.

    Even after 60 years, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to inspire argument, denial and myth. Surprisingly, most people know very little about what happened on August 6 and 9, 1945, two days that changed the world. This is a comprehensive, straightforward, moving account of the bombings from the point of view of the people who were there.

    Like most American, public-school educated kids, I had no background on the subject at all. I knew that bombs were dropped on Hiroshima-Nagasaki and then the war ended. But that really was about it. I think the concept of their being survivors hadn't occurred to me. But here in this room were housewives and shopkeepers, and I just thought, well, this would be a less threatening way to tell the story...

    Some people are surprised by the reserve of the survivors. But you have to remember that culturally, for Japanese to just talk about themselves in any way that might elicit sympathy or pity is something that Japanese just don't do. When the survivors speak out publicly, they often face criticism and prejudice from their neighbors and the public. People tell them to be quiet, to forget the past, not to stir up old emotions, not to remind people of the war. So it's a difficult thing to do...

    Many people in the film are still dealing with survivor guilt but somehow have found reasons to live. One of the survivors talks about looking for her mother, and seeing what she thinks is her mother because she finds a burned corpse with a gold tooth that looks like her mother, and she reaches out to touch the body and it turns to ashes before her finger reaches it. And then her sister gets radiation sickness, her hair starts falling out, and the kids at school are taunting her sister because she's bald, and the sister steps in front of a train and kills herself. This woman says that there are two kinds of courage—the courage to die, and the courage to live. And she says she decided she wanted to live, despite her having lost everybody...

    I think what we want to do with the film is not make particular political points, but just the point that the bombs affected the lives of real people, and so let's hear what they have to say. No matter how important your message is, if the film is boring, no one will hear it. And my feeling is, this is an incredibly dramatic, amazing story, and if we just let the people tell their stories, that in itself is a political act, of sorts, and that people can find their own messages.

    Steven Okazaki interview

    It's sixty-two years since the bombing and it's still a really political topic. It's still a topic that makes people uncomfortable. I developed an insecurity complex while I was making the film. Early on, I was at a party and people would ask what I'm working on and I'd say a Hiroshima/Nagasaki film, and I swear, 80 percent of the people either went, "Oh. I'm going to go get a drink" or they'd change the subject. Or they start arguing.... People have really strong feelings, but they really know nothing about the subject. I think it's natural to have a block because the images and stories are so disturbing. But I think it's surprising — people really don't know anything about it.

    another interview: transcript, video

    { Official site, Steven Okazaki, survivor artwork, IAEA }

    Tue, May 13, 2008  Permanent link
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