Minamata—The Victims and Their World || Minamata—Kanjasan to sono sekai 水俣—患者さんとその世界
Tsuchimoto Noriaki | 1971 | Japan | 120’ | 16mm | Japanese spoken, English subtitles
In the small coastal town of Minamata in Kyushu, far from the metropolitan centre, the fertiliser company Chisso built a factory, taking advantage of cheap labour. From 1932 it dumped mercury-filled wastewater into the sea for decades, contaminating the water and sea life severely affecting the health of local people and destroying their livelihoods. This became the worst case of environmental pollution in postwar Japan, whose consequences are still felt today. Tsuchimoto made films to show the effect of industrial pollution on people’s health, becoming a strong advocate for the patients’ rights and for the recognition of the disease. In this film, the first in a long series about Minamata, he visits a group of patients and their families who have sued Chisso, listening to their words, and understanding how the disease has affected their lives. It was shown and discussed extensively in Japan together with information campaigns, and it led to the identification of hundreds of new cases. This important film brought Minamata disease to the world’s attention and created a global environmental movement of solidarity.
With an introduction by Ishizaka Kenji, Japan Institute of the Moving Image
“The roots of Minamata disease are different from those of other human diseases… It is a form of chemical poisoning whose destructiveness is, at heart, a reaction against human beings caused by [the drive towards] “civilisation” … Since the discovery of the disease, industry has interfered with the discovery of its cause, in a cover-up going all the way to the prefectural and national governments. That this obstruction has fundamentally not been overcome, even today, testifies to the fact that Minamata disease is, in addition to being a disease of the human body, a thoroughly social disease.”
– Tsuchimoto Noriaki, from the production notes of the Minamata disease trilogy, 1973