“Minamata disease” is a neurological disease caused by methylmercury poisoning named for its identification in Kumamoto Prefecture, where industrial wastewater from a Chisso Corporation chemical plant contaminated fish and shellfish consumed by communities around Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea. Filmed over 15 years, this sprawling documentary lays out this history of pollution dating back to the 1930s and decades long legal battles against the government for diagnosis certification and reparations. However the film gives itself over to the network of survivors, care providers, and supporters keeping the fight alive, following unexpected chutes and ladders from gregarious researchers’ theories pushing back against an intransigent medical establishment, to the passionate song lyrics of a woman suffering since childhood. Here Hara and Kobayashi return to core commitments of disability rights and individuals’ demands of the state, extending Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s landmark series on the Minamata struggle, and issuing a cry against political apathy.
“Hara Kazuo—considered his generation’s documentary master—displays headstrong patience and allegiance to his subjects, something that has become characteristic of his late-career period of prolific filmmaking.”—International Film Festival Rotterdam
Streaming in the U.S. from June 4-July 2 as part of Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara & Sachiko Kobayashi | Also available in the U.S. as a part of our discounted 3-Film Bundle 2 for $20