Beyond the Wave 波のむこう

My Atomic Aunt (2013)
Meine Tante aus Fukushima (2014)

TV ver: MY ATOMIC AUNT (Germany / Japan /Britain / Sweden / Netherlands / Canada / Israel, 52 /73mins)

Film ver: Beyond the Wave (Germany / Japan, HDCAM, Color, 83mins)

Meine Tante aus Fukushima will be broadcast on the 6th of March 2014 on WDR and the 11th of March on BR in Germany - see the WDR page for the film.

An Inselfilm Production

NHK (Japan) / BBC (UK) / WDR (Germany) /IKON (Netherlands) / SVT (Sweden) / Knowledge Network (Canada) /YES Docu (Israel)

Writer, Director, and Co-Producer: Kyoko Miyake

A small town in Fukushima prefecture fights for its survival after the nuclear explosions expelled all its residents as an ironic surprise and haunt every step the townsmen take to rebuild their life.

Sundance Documentary Grant, Spring 2012
Winner, PUMA Creative Catalyst Award, Channel4 BritDoc Foundation
Winner, TIFFCOM Best Pitch Award, at Tokyo International Film Festival
Winner, Best Pitch Award , Tokyo TV Forum 2011
Winner, Best Japan Pitch, Asian Side of the Doc

NaturVision German Conservation and Sustainability Film Prize, July 2014
Gold Plaque Award, Chicago International Film Festival Television Awards, April 2014
Official Selection, Hamburg Film Festival (Germany), September 2013
Official Selection, Dok Leipzig (Germany), October 2013
Official Selection, EIDF (South Korea), October 2013
Official Selection, DocPoint (Finland), 2014
Official Selection, Paris Human Rights Film Festival, 2014

This film has been supported by a grant from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and NRW Filmstiftung. The project was selected for a prestigious talent development training scheme, Crossing Borders 2011 run by European Documentary Network.

Long Synopsis

Once avid supporters of the local nuclear plant and its managers, Aunt Kuniko and her community are on the verge of being permanently excluded from their homes in the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe.

Director Kyoko Miyake, having lived outside of Japan for more than a decade, feels compelled to revisit Fukushima. She wants to find out the fate of her family''s home-town Namie, which with its golden beaches and friendly neighbours used to be her childhood idyll. Today, Namie is a shadow of its former self having been completely destroyed by the tsunami and, because of the threat of radiation from the nearby power plant, might never be rebuilt.

Following her aunt Kuniko, Miyake begins to question her nostalgic childhood memories and in so doing understand the harsh economic realities and sacrifices that her Aunt and the people of Namie had to make in order to survive.

Why aren''t the people who have ''sacrificed'' and been through so much angrier at the officials? Are the western media right in depicting Japanese as being too obedient, or is there another explanation? The film unearths uncomfortable revelations from the past that prevents things from being so clear-cut. At the same time, aunt Kuniko slowly begins to change her attitude towards the state and its system – never losing her optimism and her positive outlook for long, but instead gaining a healthy scepticism for everything she''s being told.

The film introduces the present conflicts that the town faces through the eyes of Miyake’s aunt Kuniko, once a hyperactive businesswoman operating a wedding chapel, a funeral parlour and a bakery. Kuniko and her husband, like many other residents, have evacuated to an area just outside the exclusion zone, while waiting for the publication of a radiation map informing the residents which areas of Namie will be soon safe to return to. The delay in the publication forces them to live in a state of limbo - torn between the hope of returning home and the need to move on with their lives. All three sons have moved away with their families from the region fearing the effects of the radiation. Should Kuniko stay to give the businesses another try, or should they leave it all behind and start again?

Parallel to the difficult decisions they have to make, another conflict that the town has to face emerges: its past failed nuclear ambitions. Miyake remembers conversations she overheard as a child that reveal the hostility the townspeople held for the anti-nuclear protesters... Gradually it becomes clear that the town’s history of attempting to invite a nuclear power plant is still dictating its present.

The 1st anniversary of the disaster marks a change in aunt Kuniko who decides to take matters into her own hands. Starting small, she begins with a simple haircut and the decision to take some exercise class to feel better about herself. Before she knows it, she is reading books about radiation and even joins anti-nuclear protests herself. Her more sceptical and critical view of the authorities stands in stark contrast to the unquestioning support she displayed a year earlier.

When aunt Kuniko finally receives the radiation map, she realises that returning to Namie is a hopeless dream. She makes a final visit to her old house in the radiated area and decides to rebuild her life somewhere else. Sadness and disappointment are inevitable, but in her irrepressible optimistic way – she is active again and making plans for the future.