Thursday, May 29, 2014


On Saturday, the day before leaving Brazil, I joined via Skype the post-screening discussion for 'A2-B-C' taking place at Poly Poly Higashi Nakano, the Tokyo cinema where the film has been screening twice a day for the last two weeks (PHOTO below, INFO HERE).  As this may be the last week for the film to be showing in Tokyo, there was a great turnout for the screening and discussion led by Japan Docs director Kayo Sawaguchi (who previously interviewed me in this video HERE (日本語) and documentary filmmaker Matsue Tetsuaki (one of the jury members who awarded 'A2-B-C' with THIS prize last year).

Making a quick stopover in the US (which thank fully broke up an otherwise more than 24 hour trip from Brazil to Japan), I had the chance to briefly visit my family.  I was also invited to give a talk about my work as part of a speaker's series at Collington, a retirement community outside Washington, DC, which is home to many former ambassadors, members of the United States Foreign Service and CIA, and foreign correspondents.  In the interest of full disclosure, this is also where my father lives.

Dining with some of the residents before my talk, I was struck by the varied and amazing experiences they had had as influential leaders in events that had changed the world.  Where I had only read about such times in history books, these are the people who had helped to shape that history.  Their stories must be recorded, and I found myself wondering how I could help with such an oral history project.  It was humbling (and almost embarrassing) to be invited to speak before a group of such distinguished persons, but it was a wonderful experience that I will treasure deeply.

During the talk moderated by Suzanne Embree, Speakers Committee Chair (PHOTO above), I was able to share clips from my work on a large screen for the audience in the attendance, and in addition, the entire event was broadcast live on the in-house channel for those that desired to watch from their own homes.

The time has gone by all too quickly, and now I am on my way home to Japan where I will attend the last evening screening of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo.  These nearly three weeks away have been filled with amazing experiences that I look forward to reflecting on as I continue moving forward.  This also marks the end of one year on the competitive international film festival circuit for 'A2-B-C'.  As the film next goes on a domestic tour of Japan (INFO 日本語), I will be looking at how to reach a larger audience for 'A2-B-C' at home and abroad, while continuing to work on my new projects, including the upcoming premier of my new film '-1287'.  Trailer HERE:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mata Ne

Today was the last day of Rio's International Uranium Film Festival (INFO), but first there was time for one more lunch of traditional beans and rice at festival sponsor Bar du Mineiro.

The other day the German Crew from 'Final Picture' (INFO), the Argentinian filmmakers from '11:02 de 1945 Retratos de Nagasaki' along with Hiroshima survivor Bonkohara-san (INFO) and I shared a meal together here.  The German team was trying to make conversation with the Argentinian team (one of whom spoke only Spanish and the other who could speak Spanish and Portuguese) without much success.  The solution?  The Germans spoke in English, which I then translated into Japanese for Bonkohara-san, who does not speak English but who has lived in Brazil for over 50 years. Bonkohara-san then translated it into Portuguese for the Argentinian filmmaker who could speak Portuguese; he in turn then translated it into Spanish for the other Argentinian filmmaker.  And then the entire process was reversed.  Got it?

Perhaps one of my biggest discoveries about film festivals after being on tour for the better part of the last nine months is that film festivals are in many ways not really about films at all.  If this was just about watching films, everyone could just watch the films online in the comfort of their own homes.  No, festivals are about a coming together, sharing and getting out of our comfort zones, and in the process discovering new ideas, solutions and a bit more about ourselves.

And at every festival I have been to the world over, all of this is made possible through a dedicated and energetic staff of volunteers.

Today I bid farewell to the amazing view from my bed (more PHOTOS), and headed over to festival venue for the final screenings.  But this was not a time to say "good bye", but rather "mata ne" ("see you later" in Japanese), for the Uranium Film Festival next goes on tour, and who knows, maybe we will meet again somewhere in this big, beautiful world.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Friday's screening of "11:02 de 1945 Retratos de Nagasaki" (TRAILER) at Rio's International Uranium Film Festival (WEBSITE) saw the theatre filled with school students.  The film is a documentary about "hibakusha" (victims of radiation exposure) who survived the nuclear blast in Nagasaki and are now living in Brazil.  The filmmaker, Roberto Fernandez, and his collaborating partner, artist Claudio Gomez who created the "Survivors" portraits seen in the film and on display at the festival (BELOW), were in attendance for the post-screening discussion along with Hiroshima survivor, Bonkohara Kuniko.

Bonkohara-san, 74 years old, is the director of the Association of Hibakusha in Brasil, and has lived here for more than 50 years.  When Bonkohara-san was five years old he moved to Hiroshima with his family shortly before the nuclear bomb was dropped on that city in 1945.  He now travels around the world sharing his story of surviving the nuclear blast and speaking out against nuclear weapons.  

During the post-screening discussion with the students (PHOTO below), Bonkohara-san described horrific scenes of badly burnt people walking in the streets after the bombing with their arms held out in front of them, their skin melted away and hanging from their bones like shreds of cloth.

It was a huge honour to meet Bonokohara-san and to hear not only his experiences in Hiroshima, but to spend time speaking with him and hearing his thoughts after the screenings of other films at the festival about nuclear power, nuclear testing and uranium mining.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Consequences and Cachaça

Screenings at the Uranium International Film Festival (WEBSITE) resumed Wednesday, and although audiences have been smaller than at past editions due to the recent bus and police strikes (!) in Rio de Janeiro (INFO), attendees have been treated to a wide variety of discussions with visiting guests and events following screenings.

One of Wednesday's highlights was the presence of Mr. Sergio Duarte, former diplomat and the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs from 2007-2012, who spoke after the screening of the documentary 'In My Lifetime' (WEBSITE).

On Thursday, the director/ writer, sound designer/ composer and lead actor of 'Final Picture' (TRAILER) made the journey from Germany for their Latin America Premier.  A fiction film about life in a bunker in Germany following a nuclear war, 'Final Picture' depicts the human and emotional consequences we have the potential to bring upon ourselves through the use of nuclear weapons.  

Between screenings, the festival documentarian has been hard at work, recording the events and statements from the visiting delegates.

Following the day's screenings, the visiting filmmakers and festival organizers headed over to the famous Copacabana Beach for "caipirinha", citrous cocktails made with local "cachaça" (sugar cane spirits).

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Monkey See

Between screenings at the International Uranium Film Festival (WEBSITE), visiting directors have an opportunity to take part in excursions away from the festival venue.  Festival sponsors, including Bar Gomez and Bar du Mineiro, have ensured the visiting delegates are well-fed (and watered!), by providing local delicacies such fish and potato croquettes, and traditional dishes like beans and rice (PHOTO below).

At Bar du Mineiro with Festival Executive Director Marcia Gomes de Oliveira and Matsubayashi Yoji, director of "The Horses of Fukushima"

Yesterday, Norbert Suchanek, Festival General Director, brought visiting filmmakers to Red Beach, at the base of Sugar Loaf, for a swim in the sea.  Setting up a GoPro camera, I captured some great photos of us monkeying around.  Later, as we explored the path leading into the rainforest, we saw some actual monkeys!

Also on our tours have been other famous Rio spots, such as Copacabana, favelas (PHOTO below), and an overlook with amazing views of Sugar Loaf and the Christ, the Redeemer statue (PHOTOS of both below).

Despite the major transportation strike of last week (INFO), audience attendance has been good.  Screenings resume today and continue through the end of the week.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Language Barrier

The South American Premier of 'A2-B-C' was last night during the Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro (WEBSITE).

Taking place in the screening room of the film archive at the Modern Art Museum, shortly before the screening, I noticed a plaque outside the theatre (PHOTO below).
The Film Archive of the Museu de Arte Moderna... (is) to serve as a space for debates by the civil society and for the International Film Festival regarding the pillars of Sustainable Development: economic growth and environmental protection.
A perfect place to hold the Uranium Film Festival...

Following the screening, Marcia Gomes de Oliveira, Executive Director, apologized to the audience for not having Portuguese subtitles for five of the Japanese films (including 'A2-B-C') as had been hoped.  The Japan Foundation of Brazil (WEBSITE) had agreed to sponsor the subtitling of the films, but then they had a sudden change of heart at the last minute and rescinded their offer of sponsorship.  The festival organizers were crest-fallen, as were the cinema-goers, and it is justifiably assumed that the Japan Foundation's actions were politically motivated.

Despite this barrier, the screening was well-attended, and I was delighted to see many young people and families in the audience.  The post-screening discussion, led by Norbert G. Suchanek, Festival General Director, covered issues affecting both people in Fukushima and here in Brazil, where there is a strong debate surrounding the building of a third nuclear reactor.

As always, after the Q&A I filmed messages of support for the families in Fukushima from the people who saw the film (recent message compilations HERE).

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Awake.  The view from my bed took took away my breath.

Downstairs, a breakfast of eggs, cheese, papaya, watermelon juice, and homemade breads and jams waiting.

A walk around the neighbourhood.

Sunday morning in Rio.  Peaceful.  So grateful to be alive.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Saying goodbye to Edmonton, I closed my eyes and woke up in Rio (OK, it actually took four flights and many hours to get here, but who's counting?!).

The 4th Uranium Film Festival is taking place in the Modern Art Museum of Rio de Janeiro (MAM) from May 14th to May 25th (WEBSITE).  The museum and theatre complex is gorgeous, and the weather here is perfect.  Norbert G. Suchanek, Festival General Director, and Marcia Gomes de Oliveira, Executive Director, (PHOTO below) along with a crew of young and energetic volunteers, have created a friendly and fun atmosphere, despite the difficult topics documented in the films that are being screened here.

Among the participants at the festival, there was one familiar face: Matsubayashi Yoji, director of "The Horses of Fukushima" (WEBSITE), whom I had met when I was screening 'A2-B-C' at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival last year (INFO).

with director Matsubayashi

with director Matsubayashi and Marcia,  Festival Executive Director

Perhaps General Director Norbert was inspired by the festival's yellow-theme when taking this photo.

Also in attendance at the festival this evening was Kamil Ergin, a Turkish journalist who was writing about the film "The Cloud Has Passed Over Us", a documentary about areas in Northern Turkey that were affected by radiation following the accident at Chernobyl and the first Turkish film the festival has screened.  Kamil and his colleagues interviewed us about the festival, our films and the issue of nuclear policy in general, while offering some insight on the very important nuclear debate currently taking place in Turkey.

'A2-B-C' screens tomorrow night!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Secrets and Screenings

Yesterday, I was honoured to learn that Opposition Lawmaker Yamamoto Taro had not only gone to the cinema in Tokyo to see my film 'A2-B-C', but he had also posted about it on his Facebook page (HERE).  I am extremely grateful that he made such a public statement about going to see the film, and know that this will help to raise its profile and thus the plight of the Fukushima families it depicts.

Last autumn, I wrote about Yamamoto-san's opposition to the then-proposed "Secrecy Law" (PHOTO below, STORY HERE).  The law eventually passed, causing great concern among journalists (and filmmakers).  In March of this year, I wrote THIS article about the new law for the German publication IPPNW Forum.

Back at the film festival in Edmonton, I have had an awesome week at Global Visions (WEBSITE).  Great films, new friends, and fun talk over good wine. 

Here's to new friends and colleagues!

with Jennifer Leitham from 'I Stand Corrected' (STORY)

A rare site: two right-handed bass players (STORY), with Global Visions Board President Brad Ambury and Festival Director Guy Lavallee

Brad and Guy with wives Tammi and Tammy ("i" and "y" for short!), with Andrea and Jennifer from 'I Stand Corrected' (STORY)

After a wonderful closing screening and debriefing over diner, this morning I am at the airport again; this time on my way to Brazil for a screening of 'A2-B-C' in Rio de Janeiro's Uranium Film Festival (INFO). 

But first, despite the late night, I was up 4, packing my suitcase and getting ready for a 5am Q&A via Skype with the audience in the Tokyo theatre where the film was released last week (INFO).  I am just so extremely grateful for this opportunity to share this story with people all over the world.

I think I'll sleep on the plane...