Trailer for Minamata: The Victims and Their World

Zakka Films is a small company run by my wife, Ono Seiko. She's the only employee and so it is far from being a major player in the business. For a long time she was a coordinator at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (that's how we met), so she has a lot of solid connections that have helped her business get started. These include top scholars such as Markus Nornes and Jasper Sharp who've written material for the fine booklets included in her DVDs. I also help out a lot with writing contributions, editing, and checking subtitles, so I can testify to the quality of her product.

But there is one thing whose quality I cannot guarantee, and that's the trailers.

Because I made them.

I've done the trailers for all her DVDs so far (including that for the Roots of Japanese Anime), and while they are not tremendously bad, they're not that great either. I guess I don't have that much talent for editing. But they have been fun to do. I got to learn Final Cut and play around a bit with images. 

Here's the trailer I did for Minamata: The Victims and Their World, one of the DVDs in the Documentaries of Noriaki Tsuchimoto series that Zakka Films just put out. It reminded me again how much you can get away with in terms of the image if good music covers your tracks. Minamata, of course, is one of the great documentaries in Japanese, if not world, film history, which takes up the struggles of the victims of mercury poisoning (Minamata disease). With radioactive poison spreading through the environment right now in Fukushima, this film is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

I still wonder how well the image of the octopus fisherman works at the end of the trailer. For those who know the film and its history, he is one of the work’s emblematic figures and frequently featured in advertising (his scene is also one of the most beautiful in documentary film history). But his face suddenly appearing in the trailer may seem a bit confusing for those who don't know the film. I did, however, want to suggest, even briefly, that this documentary is not simply a work of agitation, protesting against injustice and seeking redress, but also a sensitive depiction of the everyday lives of those who live by and with the sea, and who suffer most from its poisoning.

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