“We Are All Radioactive” – A Cringe-worthy Documentary Project?

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    Here is the teaser for “We Are All Radioactive,” a online documentary film project created by TokyoMango blogger Lisa Katayama and TED film director Jason Wishnow:

    The project appears to focus on the lives of fishermen and surfers in the town of Motoyoshi, on the northern tip of Miyagi prefecture. It is nearly 100 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and far from areas that suffered dangerous contamination. According to crowd-soured data collected by Safecast, radiation values here are as low as any in their entire database. Why would the creators place their main emphasis on radiation when it would be an ideal place to film a documentary about the deadly and destructive tsunami?

    Could this be an another example of the international media brushing aside the main events of 3/11 in favor of scary stories about radiation?

    “We Are All Radioactive” as a title

    When I first saw the title, it made me cringe. I would like to think that it is a reference to the fact that the human body, like almost everything on earth, is indeed naturally radioactive. However, the information provided by the project’s creators strongly suggests that the title refers to Fukushima radiation contaminating the bodies of people in Japan.

    “Radioactive” marketing

    On the blog post announcing the project (emphasis added):

    “For now, please visit our campaign page to join the movement! We have lots of fun, meaningful interactive perks lined up for those who join the Radioactive community, like video messages from the characters and the chance to contribute your thoughts on a future episode. Super cool right?”

    So it’s “super cool” to “join the Radioactive community” and give them money. Coming to your internet connection on March 11th! Ugh.

    Fear-inducing sound bites

    The teaser uses sound bites from a YouTube video uploaded in May 2011 by Sendai-based herbalist Autumn Tess Taira. In the full source clip, Tess Taira expresses her total distrust of the radiation data being released at that time by Japanese authorities and compares it to the post-Chernobyl censorship by the Soviet Union. It reflects the frustration and stress that some people were feeling a few months after the tsunami, but were those fears justified? Although there are questions about the speed at which information was released in March and April, work by independent groups and journalists has failed to find any evidence that the Japanese government has been deliberately lying about radiation levels. I hope that the documentary makes this clear.

    The end of the teaser has audio that sounds like it is from a July 2011 video that shows a group of angry Fukushima city residents chasing a mid-level bureaucrat and demanding that he accept bottles of urine. Another good example of the kind of stress and frustration that people have been under, but their insistence that the Japanese government is trying to murder its own citizens need to be treated with some skeptism.

    Anti-nuclear groups as sources

    Two of the four organizations mentioned as sources of information are anti-nuclear groups (links added):

    “Our footage also touches on the work of Architecture for Humanity, Greenpeace, Surfrider Foundation, and Safecast — all major global non-profits dedicated to helping Japan respectively with post-earthquake reconstruction, human and environmental rights, water safety, and radiation monitoring.”

    It is troubling that the project is relying on information from political groups that seek to abolish all forms of nuclear energy. I suppose it is possible that they’ll mention that Greenpeace’s testing of food has found no dangerous levels of contamination, but the tone of the teaser suggests otherwise.

    Maybe only the project title and the teaser are cringe-worthy. Maybe they’ll properly explain the situation. This kind of project has the potential to be something good. I hope that I’m just overreacting.

    ( Update [ 9:00PM March 11, 2012]: I was hoping that I might have a chance to watch the first episode today and add some comments. But the video is not yet available. So much for the time zone in which the disaster actually took place. )

    ( Update [ 10:00AM March 12, 2012]: A day after March 11th and they still have not made their first episode available to the public. All that money, and they can’t meet their deadline to “unlock” content. )

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