Courage to revive and rebuild.
HBO (June 2012) – On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake occurred off of the eastern coast of Japan that triggered a tsunami, taking over fifteen thousand lives and almost eight thousand people are still identified as missing. HBO‘s upcoming documentary, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, shows how the sakura (Japanese for cherry blossom) season inspired a nation to rebuild and keep hope.
Lucy Walker, director of the film, was originally going to dedicate the project to the cherry blossom season. However, on the day of the earthquake, Walker and a film crew decided to cancel her plans and head north to the Tohuku region, where she taped both destruction and the grief expressed by survivors who had just lost their loved ones. The earthquake registered as a 9.0 on the Richter Scale and produced tsunami waves up to 133 feet high.
The film opens with home video shot from a hill descending upon a nearby town. A young woman standing on the same hill, gives her testimony about witnessing civilians being devoured by the water. Another resident, an older gentleman, recollect an emotional account of attempting to save the life of his friend.
“I don’t want a house. I don’t want clothes. I don’t want anything. I just want his life back.”
Some survivors experienced terrifying moments of being chased by floating houses rushing towards them. Residents of a community center live within the 30km zone around the Fukushima power plant that experienced a meltdown phase shortly after the earthquake. Many wear cotton masks to protect themselves from the radiation.
Despite the grim circumstances, the spirit of the Japanese people remains. This is because of the sakura, which represents spring and renewal and Japan. A gentleman explains this flower represents how the majority of the Japanese view themselves–as tiny flowers that normally can’t be seen, but together they create a wondrous display when together.
Across Japan, viewing parties (or hanami) are held to admire the short life cycle of the cherry blossoms that run from late March through the month of April. To respect the lives lost due to the natural disaster, numerous viewing parties were called off. The cherry blossoms serve as a silent and beautiful reminder of the resilience of the Japanese spirit to persevere through all situations.
“Every year that the trees bloom, they’ll give us the courage to keep going.”
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom have been nominated for an Oscar® in the Best Documentary Short Subject category. It has also received the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
The documentary debuts on HBO Monday, July 16th at 10PM Eastern time.