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In the Grey Zone and A2-B-C

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In the Grey Zone and A2-B-C

Roderick Wilson reviews In the Grey Zone (2012) and A2-B-C, directed by Ian Thomas Ash

The outlines of the triple disaster of 3.11 are well-known, but much less attention has been paid to the continuing disaster that is known simply both in and outside of Japan as “Fukushima.” In the whole of Fukushima Prefecture, less than 2,000 people lost their lives in the tsunami that swept away whole communities further to the north, but of the 110,000 residents evacuated from the area around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant most will never return home. Their houses, schools, and workplaces have been polluted with toxic levels of radioactive cesium and strontium that have rendered the area uninhabitable for decades to come. It is the experience of this still unfolding nuclear disaster by local residents in Fukushima Prefecture that is the subject of Ian Thomas Ash’s two documentary films In the Grey Zone (2012) and A2-B-C (2013).

Grey Zone

The first of these documentaries, In the Grey Zone, was filmed over a ten-day period in April 2011. The “grey zone” from which the film takes its title is a ten-kilometer wide area created on 20 March 2011 when the national government declared a twenty-kilometer mandatory exclusion zone around the crippled nuclear power plant and another thirty-kilometer boundary outside of which people were encouraged to go about their normal activities. In the “grey zone” between these boundaries, residents were told to avoid going outside and stay indoors as much as possible. The film begins with a clip from the now famous SOS message posted on YouTube of the mayor of Minamisoma City, which extends across all three zones, appealing for immediate aid to help his community’s dire shortage of food and fuel. The film then cuts to a scene a few weeks later with the director and cameraman driving through Minamisoma to the city hall, passing along the way a post-tsunami landscape of debris, ragged trees, tsunami-ravaged houses, and occasional Japanese Self Defense Force soldiers and vehicles. Following this attention-grabbing introduction, the rest of the film is loosely structured around Ash trying to learn more about the local Board of Education’s decision to open a school for 970 students just outside of the thirty-kilometer boundary. In the process, he visits various places throughout the city, such as homes, farms, bars, a gas station, an evacuation center, and a radiation screening center, where he interviews residents about the opening of the school, living in the grey zone, and their thoughts for the future.

read more | In the Grey Zone trailer | A2-B-C Trailer | In the Grey Zone Website | A2-B-C Website