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The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (2011)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Extremely well-made and sensitive look at a group of survivors of the March 11, 2011 tsunami that hit Japan. This documentary hears their stories of survival during the first half of the film and then the second half turns to the people's belief in the cherry blossom and what it meant to them after such a tragedy. The start of this movie contains some of the most dramatic footage you're going to see in a documentary or anything that Hollywood could create. The film starts as a group of people are on a hill looking over their town when they see the high tides starting to come in. The next couple minutes are just downright shocking in their destruction because from this one vantage point we see the entire town destroyed in the matter of seconds. This footage is just so shocking and heartbreaking because this isn't a Hollywood disaster movie but instead it's something real. There's even footage of people in the hit area trying to race for the hill with the water quickly working towards them. This footage here is just so heartbreaking and then we see that same spot a month after the disaster. This is a pretty hard subject to do a documentary on but director Lucy Walker does a terrific job at telling these sad stories and then giving the film a more uplifting beat as we hear the history of the cherry blossom and why they mean so much to the people. This is certainly one of the better documentaries out there and at 40-minutes it runs a very quick pace and really delivers all sorts of emotions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sure, it's pretty obvious Western culture is different from Japan's.
Just take a look around from any perspective.
But where we diverge the most may flow not from outward discrepancies but from a philosophical point of view. While the Judeo-Christian perspective focuses on the choices of the individual, Buddhism encourages a holistic view.
On 3/11 -- the day in 2011 that Japan's worst-ever earthquake struck, triggering a 110-foot tsunami -- nature unleashed a horrific fury, killing 20,000 people and laying waste to expanses of the eastern sea coast. Then, a month or two later, Japan's storied cherry blossoms started poking from their buds, offering succor and hope to a traumatized population.
If "sakura" inundated in salt water can return to the business of life, then so can we, says a white-haired man who spends daylight with his wife, seated in front of their rubble-reduced home, and night hours asleep in a community center.
This brief documentary begins with a shocking and lengthy stretch of home video that shows a vast black river of debris swallowing up frenzied scrambling dots (people) and all manner of man-made construction. The second half of the film focuses on the Japanese people's reverence for the delicate pink flower whose blossoming they mark in a 10-step progression. Death comes to the bloom within days of its birth, a call to love and revere the gifts of nature before they disappear.
There is a transience in life that is always there, though we, especially here in the West, prefer not to look in that direction.
There is an amazing sequence in this film in which a seller of cherry trees, whose family has been in the business for 16 generations, discusses the duality of nature. His wise words are as unexpected as they are eloquent.
This film may make you cry. And wake you up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is always something searing about raw footages from natural
disasters. It is always the survivors and/or those who just happened to
witness it are the ones recording the very nature of what happens when
Mother Nature destructs. We are the only the bystanders shocked at what
we see from the news, they are the ones who first saw it up close.
Or in this case, the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan, and the local residents recording raw footages from afar, but still able to witness the impending destruction of their hometown. It really hits home for them when they realised they are actually about to witness their hometown being destroyed by the impending tsunami, from the raw footages with the locals speaking of their reactions which opened this documentary as produced by Kira Carstensen and directed by documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker.
The documentary complements with locals speaking how the tsunami affects them, along with ordinary Japanese young and old on what the cherry blossom means to them. Spring time is usually a time of admiring cherry blossoms in Japan, but that particular year's cherry blossom season has an added tinge of poignancy with the cameras in one scene showing a sign in a Tokyo park reminding residents of observing sensitivity to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
While one cannot help but be amazed at how ordinary Japanese view the cherry blossom and what it says of the Japanese psyche in especially during those times, it is especially those hardest hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that their stories really hits you. It really stood out for me personally on how the cameras would pan the images of photographs, in the midst of what the destruction had left behind the human cost. Photographs of a couple getting married, of two school friends whether the owners to those photographs are alive, nobody knows.
We are often being told how Mother Nature can be destructive when she wants to be, but in such moments we may have forgotten the beauty of what she has left behind in this world as well, as depicted by the ordinary Japanese who spoke on the documentary reflecting on the cherry blossom season with the added tinge of the nature of destruction Mother Nature had left behind back in March 2011.
We here at Indie Friendlie.com watched this incredible documentary from
director Lucy Walker with great anticipation, and we were not
The film is heart-wrenching, difficult at times, but ultimately inspiring in its very intimate portraits of those whose lives were forever changed by the recent tsunami in Japan.
Lucy Walker also co-directed the documentary "Waste Land", which was shot in Brooklyn and Brazil over 3 years. "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" and "Waste Land" show her ability to capture incredibly personal moments of courage in a vast landscape of adversity. In Japan, she did this with survivors of the tsunami, and in Brazil she did it again with that country's most impoverished.
Awards and recognition for "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" are well-deserved. Definitely worth watching.
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