Directed by Lucy Walker (Waste Land), with the affecting tones of Moby as the soundtrack – ‘The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom’ deserves its Oscar nomination, delivering a profoundly tragic and heartfelt documentary of ruined lives and eternal hope.
In March of 2011, I was on air with my radio segment, when the images of the Japan Tsunami reached the Australian media. At the same time, frightened residents in Japan captured on camera the arrival of the Tsunami in their home town, destroying their village and residents.
One of those jarring pieces of footage begins this documentary. The opening 10 minutes is as disturbing as any film I have ever seen. Shot from high upon a hill, residents are seen running to escape the wall of water, as they try to scramble up the embankments. Some go back down the hill to rescue nursing home patients.
Lucy Walker takes us into the heart of the devastation no less than one month after the Tsunami. We meet residents who each handle grief in their own way. A couple, who return to the remains of their house each day, to sit amongst the debris. A man who collect photographs and gravestones he finds, hoping someone will come for them.
We meet an elderley gentleman, emotionally weighed down by what he saw and the friend he could not save. ‘I dont want clothes’, he pleads, ‘I just want his life back’.The closest one has to life returning is through the Cherry Blossom trees. A constant symbol in Japan, of hope, of fond memories of better times, of the coming of Spring.
Lucy Walker’s skillful and sincere direction allows her to illicit from her inteview subjects, genuine emotions on how the Cherry Blossoms have affected the Japanese people and how they now look to them for emotional reassurance. Two completely different forces of nature are woven together in ‘The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom’. It is heartbreaking on an unimagineable scale. Through the survivors own words, through the dying of the blossoms to the ground, something stirs within the viewer.
The days won’t be as dark as they were.
Shakened, I returned to the opening frames of the movie. Disturbed by the Tsunami’s devastation, I never noticed in the foreground of the home movie, the bare Cherry Blossom trees, awaiting a different arrival.
Director: Lucy Walker
Running Time: 40 minutes
Nominations: Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film.
Score: 4 stars. Must see.