Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Thanks to so many family and friends, 2015 has been another year full of humbling experiences.  In 2013, I began posting the year's highlights (HERE), a tradition I continued in 2014 (HERE).  The highlights for 2015 are below.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.



The year began with continued Japan domestic screenings of my documentary 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) in Tokyo (HERE) and Beppu (HERE).  Later in the month, I was invited to speak at Sophia University in Tokyo (HERE).

My short documentary "Even the Birds Need to Be Loved" was awarded at the Snowtown USA Film Festival (INFO).  The first class I taught at the University of Tokyo came to a close, and as the 4th anniversary of the 3.11 disaster approached, screenings of my film 'A2-B-C' continued with a trip to Shimane (HERE).  After returning to Tokyo, I spoke about filmmaking in Japan at the Japan Visual-media Translation Academy (STORY).

Prior to the 4th anniversary of the 3.11 disaster, I posted links to all of the early short documentaries I filmed after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster (LINK).  A decision to cancel what would have been the first public screening of 'A2-B-C' in Fukushima was made (bottom of previous link).  This turned out to be a harbinger of a very difficult series of events that would follow in quick succession, beginning with the posting of a disclaimer on the Japanese website for the film (STORY).  With interest in the nuclear disaster peaking around the time of the anniversary, I traveled to San Diego for a screening of 'A2-B-C' a the Museum of Photographic Arts in the Balboa Park (STORY).  From there, I flew to Vancouver where the film was presented in a conference about the 3.11 disaster (STORY).  The day after returning home to Japan, I visited Nagano for a screening of 'A2-B-C' from where I posted a widely seen photograph and blog about the sudden cancellation of domestic distribution of the film (STORY).  Later in the month, the dissolution of the screening committee was announced (HERE).

After the events of the previous month, it was clear that my life was never going to be the same.  Trying to understand exactly what was happening and the unseen motivations behind them proved for a stressful few weeks evidenced by uncharacteristically forgetting appointments and misplacing important things, like my camera (story HERE).  However, there was no time for a break as screenings of 'A2-B-C' abroad continued, and I traveled to Nebraska (STORY), followed by the North American premier of my new film '-1287' (WEBSITE) in the Ashland International Film Festival (STORY).

Screenings of '-1287' continued, with the Asian premier of the film in the Taiwan International Documentary Festival HERE and HERE.  Upon returning to Japan, a press conference about the cancellation of domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' was held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (STORY).  Later that week, my video and accompanying article called "Radiation, Secrets and Lives" was published by the Japan Times (STORY).

For the second time, I attended the Nippon Connection Film Festival, where my film '-1287' received the Audience Award (STORY).  This was followed by a week of screenings of several of my films at the Werkstattkino in Munich (STORY).

In an article for the magazine '5', I came out... for the second time (ARTICLE).  I also marked 15 years since first moving to Japan (STORY).  I began research on a film about a hospice doctor in Japan, a project that would later in the year be commissioned by NHK, the public broadcaster in Japan.

The Japan domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' were re-established (STORY), and I was interviewed for a BBC World New Report about the re-start of nuclear reactors in Japan (INFO).  An in-depth article about the cancellation and re-start of domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' was published by Asashi Digital (STORY).

The first screening of 'A2-B-C' in six months were held (STORY) and several screenings of both that film and '-1287' were announced (HERE).  I traveled to Korea were I visited the DMZ (PHOTOS) and the DMZ Docs Film Festival, where '-1287' received a jury award (STORY).

My film '-1287' screened again in Taiwan, this time in the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (STORY).  After returning home to Japan, I began teaching a class in Oral Histories at the University of Tokyo and an introduction to filmmaking class at the Japan Visual-media Translation Academy.

I was deep in production on the documentary commissioned by NHK (PHOTOS).  Screenings of '-1287' continued in several US cities (HERE) and the film received the People's Choice award at the Lake Champlain International Film Festival (STORY).  After returning from the festival, I began post-production on the film for NHK.

While wrapping up the teaching on my two classes, I was also wrapping up post-production on the NHK commission, and the episode I directed was selected to represent the series (STORY).

Thank you all again so very much for your support and encouragement during this last year.  I ask for your continued support in the coming year, and hope 2016 will be filled with much Peace and Health for you all.

Ian Thomas Ash
Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dead lock

After a long submission process that began in the summer, in October I received confirmation that the proposal I had submitted for an episode of the NHK World documentary series "Inside Lens" had been selected for commissioning.  NHK World (WEBSITE), a branch of the Japanese public broadcaster, creates original news and documentary programs, and for its series "Inside Lens" nearly every episode is directed by a foreign director living in Japan

With just two months to complete the film before a delivery date at the end of December and an airing date in January, I slowed production on a couple of my current film projects while placing others on hold.  Thankfully, from September, I have had a new intern, and his help as an assistant, sound recordist, assistant director and more, has helped me be as productive as ever while also enabling me to continue traveling to film festivals and screenings of my other films.

The documentary program (still untitled) is about a home hospice doctor in rural Japan who is caring for dozens of patients who wish to die in their own homes surrounded by their family and loved ones.  With advances in the medical system since WWII, dying at home has become increasingly uncommon in Japan.  In 1953, 85% of Japanese died at home; by 2013, that number had dropped to just 15%.  The services this doctor and her team are offering are quite rare in Japan.

Since filming the main interviews in the beginning of November (STORY), we have been in the edit suite for the last month.  Last night we "locked picture" on the film, which means that the narrative editing of the film is finished and we are moving on to the next stage of post-production, including colour-grading, sound mixing and subtitling.  A 28-minute version of the film will be screening globally on NHK World starting January 27.  I am also planning to continue filming with this amazing hospice doctor and her team of nurses to expand the film into a feature documentary.

The picture-locked project
A celebratory drink after the picture lock
Earlier this month, I also received the additional honour of being selected to represent all of this season's episodes of "Inside Lens" on national television.  Filmed a couple of weeks ago, I will appear on the television program "Doki Doki TV" with celebrity hosts Patrick Harlan and Chiaki Horan, in an episode that will air on January 17 on the main NHK channel in Japan. 

with TV personalities Patrick Harlan and Chiaki Horan
On set of Doki Doki TV
Getting prepped for filming
Although I did put much of my other filming work on hold while working on the episode of "Inside Lens", I continued teaching in between shoots in Fukushima and trips abroad to attend film festivals.  This semester saw me again teaching at the University of Tokyo.  This time I was teaching a class in Oral Histories, which culminated in the students working in groups to record an oral history.  I was also teaching at the Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy.  Teaming up with tech guru and Running Art sensation Joseph Tame (WEBSITE), we taught an introduction to filmmaking class geared to working professionals (HERE).  Our student Hitomi Nakatani created one of the more experimental pieces, and it is really cool (LINK). 

While we are still wrapping up post-production on the episode of "Inside Lens", my attention is already turning back to several of my films in various stages of post-production that have been on hold these past couple of months, including one I am still hoping to finish for the 5th anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima...