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Greetings from Fukushima
by Birgit Schrumpf

Doris Dörrie, Germany

Doris Dörrie's new film Greetings from Fukushima  (Grüße aus Fukushima) was shown in the Panorama section of the Berlinale  2016 and received the Heiner Carow Award and CICAE Art Cinema Award. The film  runs under the international title Fukushima, mon Amour.

This poetic tale of two women meeting during the  aftermath of the Tsunami disaster in Fukushima is skillfully lensed in  black-and-white images by cinematographer Hanno Lentz, accompanied by Ulrike  Haage's music score of discordant piano notes to futuristic electronic tones.  The sparingly chosen news footage blends with eerie night scenes when ghosts  wander the area.

The German director and screenwriter Doris Dörrie (Bliss,  Cherry Blossoms – Hanami, Nobody Loves Me, The Hairdresser) shot her latest  film entirely in Japan with the protagonists speaking Japanese, English and  German (with subtitles). The young German woman Marie (Rosalie Thomass) arrives  in Fukushima working for the organization Clowns4Help that should bring some  joy and distraction to the survivors of the Tsunami. Burdened with her own  problems, she is unable to bring any smiles to the old folks living in  make-shift container homes away from the actual village which is declared an  Exclusion Zone with high radiation levels. She accompanies the cranky, old  Satomi (Kaori Momoi) who wants to live in her ruined house in the Zone which is  dubiously declared “safe” by the government. Satomi claims to be the last geisha  in the area but is treating Marie rather condescendingly. She can be friendly  but is more often bossy and stuborn. But still, the two seem to need each other  in order to get in touch with their inner troubles, having to let go the ghost  of loved ones “sitting on their shoulder”.

Despite the serious subject in a stark environment  Dörrie leaves room for a light quirkiness of dreamlike experiences. You can  smile at the good-humored, cross-cultural remarks even if they might be serving  a cliché. Sutomi thinks they need a “vacation from radiation” by visiting her  daughter and looking at night life in the city. But Marie and Sutomi's idea of  life couldn't be more different; the one is young and emotionally immature, the  other is at the end of her life span trying to let go of any guilt haunting  her. The film leaves us with the question of how to forgive one's own mistakes  and weaknesses. It is not just natural disasters that might take all that is  important from us.

An obvious political reference is seen at the  end by showing a small crowd of women and men picketing against atomic energy.  Whilst Germany has since started to withdraw from atomic energy by closing  reactors, Japan is back to atomic energy. There are 56 nuclear power plants in  the country and most of them are in production.