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Film records strength of women in Japan after disaster

2012/03/11 21:52

Taipei, March 11 (CNA) A U.S.-based Japanese documentary director has completed a film to tell the story of the strength of women in Japan in getting back on their feet after the country was hit by a powerful earthquake and massive tsunami last year.

Kyoko Gasha, a New-York based producer and reporter with Reuters, said that in making her film she wanted to convey the message that "we can learn something positive even from the negative."

Despite suffering through the traumatic 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, the women in the film were strong enough to find a way to "fight back with nature," Gasha told CNA in a recent interview in Taipei.

The film is being screened in Taiwan as part of the Women Make Waves Film Festival that runs through March 18.

Last year, Gasha spent 10 days in the disaster areas in northeastern Japan and interviewed some 50 people to make the documentary that features 10 main characters.

To get the interviewees to talk about themselves, "you have to open up and tell your story too," said Gasha, who had to evacuate her home in New York after Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Some of the women in the film lost family members while others had to evacuate their neighborhoods because their houses were washed away or damaged.

But they all have one thing in common: the strength to try to get their lives back to normal and the desire to support one other.

One woman, who had been a care giver at a nursing facility before the earthquake, went to an evacuation center to help distribute relief materials and give exercise classes to senior women.

Through the classes, they built friendships with one another, the 49-year-old Gasha said.

Another example was a British woman married to a Japanese man. After the earthquake, her family was forced to move to a relative's house, but the British woman decided to resume her job to teach English at an evacuation center because teaching is part of her life.

"I am not myself without that part," she said in the documentary.

A woman who heads an environmental analysis institute in Fukushima also shared her experience in the film.

People in Fukushima were concerned about the possibility of radioactive substances contaminating drinking water after the earthquake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

To ease their concerns, the institute rented a machine to help test the quality of groundwater they drank to make sure the water was safe to consume.

Deflecting the widespread perception that Fukushima residents have to stay inside because of the radiation, the woman from the institute said "we are leading a normal life."

"We still go to bars and have drinks," she said in the film. Radiation inspections have become a part of the routine in their daily lives to ensure safety, she added.

Meanwhile, women who evacuated to temporary housing also joined an activity to sew towels donated to the victims into the shape of an elephant.

Titled "Never Surrender," the project was initiated by a Japanese nongovernmental organization. The elephant towels have been sent to different parts of Japan to sell for charity.

The documentary will also be shown in France, Canada, South Korea and the U.S., Gasha said.

As the recovery is a long process, Gasha said she will follow the stories of these women, noting that "it is a 10-year project."

"I hope I can come back to Taiwan" with a newer version of the story, Gasha said.

(By Elaine Hou) ENDITEM/ls