‘Japan Lies,’ Documentary About Veteran Photojournalist, Wins Three Awards

February 16, 2013

By Junko Watanabe, Hiromi Minami, and Tetsushi Yamamura via Asahi Shimbun

YANAI, Yamaguchi Prefecture–A documentary about a Japanese photojournalist who shed light on the plight of atomic bomb victims and the oppressed during his nearly seven-decade career, has won three accolades in cinema.

“Japan Lies: The Photojournalism of Kikujiro Fukushima, Age 90” has proved so popular that a Hiroshima theater is showing the film before previously scheduled screening events in the prefecture this spring.

Saburo Hasegawa, 42, made his directorial debut with “Japan Lies,” which follows the life of Fukushima, now 91, who lives in Yanai.

Fukushima’s photojournalism career started with his haunting pictures of the daily struggles of atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima after the end of World War II.

He also covered ethnic Koreans, the Self-Defense Forces, student protesters in the 1960s and anti-nuclear activists following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. His photos are taken from an anti-authority standpoint.

The 114-minute documentary was released in August last year. About 30,000 people have watched the film at 43 theaters across Japan.

“Japan Lies” was the top-ranked documentary film in movie magazine Kinema Jumpo’s 86th annual best 10 lists released on Jan. 11.

According to the publisher, Kinema-Junposha Co., 13 jury members reviewed about 50 documentary films released last year.

The magazine described “Japan Lies” as a poignant film that flatly criticizes the many contradictions in Japanese society.

“(The top spot) also largely came from the strength of Fukushima’s photographs shown in the film,” a Kinema Junpo editor said.

“Japan Lies” was also selected as the best documentary film of the 2012 Japan Film Pen Club Award, which was announced on Jan. 8.

It won by a margin of 20 votes over the runner-up in the contest judged by about 200 critics and other film professionals, the club said.

On Jan. 17, “Japan Lies” won the documentary film award at the 67th Mainichi Film Awards.

The award ceremonies have been held in February in the Kanto region. Director Hasegawa has attended all three of them.

“I think Fukushima’s photographs and life deserve the awards more than we do,” Hasegawa said.

Although Fukushima said he was grateful for the honors, he was quick to add: “I feel a sense of shame for the fact that only I get to be happy when I have been taking photos of people living in unhappy conditions. Our time itself is moving backward to war.”

The Yokogawa Cinema theater in Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward started showing the film on Jan. 26.

In Yamaguchi Prefecture, volunteers eager to see the documentary are planning to hold screening events in Iwakuni and Yanai.

Photo: Otts