Olexa & Scalisi: Half Life in Fukushima

It makes me glad, when it goes well for former students from the Bolzano based Zelig Documentary School, where I was a teacher for many years. Therefore my curiosity made me ask Mark Olexa and Francesca Scalisi for a vimeo link, when I read that the film was selected for Visions du Réel, where it had two screenings followed by cinema screenings in their country Swizerland with upcoming 3 shows at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto. With Olexa and Scalisi as directors and Jakob Stark as cameraman a fine film has been made from a no-go zone in Fukushima, five years after the catastrophe, and 30 years after Chernobyl. The film is shot on super 16mm (!) by Stark, who is (sorry!) a very Strong and talented cameraman as he, also a graduate from Zelig, demonstrated with ”Guanape Sur” by János Richter and ”Dal Profondo” by Valentina Pedicini.

I write this as an excuse. I can see the quality of the images but of course the experience will be quite different, when I will have the chance to watch it on a big screen, and not on my MacBook.

Anyway, the film bears evidence of a clear personal aesthetic choice. Long and quiet sequences take us to an insight visit to the empty streets of the radiated zone with Naoto, who lives there with his father. He is the one the camera follows around to his cows and horses, to the packed contaminated garbage, to an ostrich who is happy to see him (!), to an absurd situation where he stops his car at a traffic crossroad waiting for the red light to become green (!) with noone else present, to another absurd situation where he plays golf in this middle of nowhere (!), to him being in brief conversation at home with his father. Otherwise the information and the emotion is primarily given through a voice-off of Naoto. It’s a pretty silent visualization of a post-catastrophical landscape and the filmmakers deserve a praise for bringing in the absurdity and humour – we have seen enough images from the nuclear disaster, we have them in our heads, when Naoto shows around to the consequences. A couple of times we hear desperate people’s sound bites (from 2011) following Naoto, I could have done without them, much more productive are the loudspeaker messages about how deal with the garbage and other safety messages (!). A no-message film, no archive, no disturbing music to make us ”feel”, with a fine editing rythm (Zelig teacher Marzia Mete has taken part in that process) that suites the superb images that keep a respectful distance to Naoto, whose point of view the film conveys.

Switzerland, France, 2016, 61 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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