2:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 4, Lon Chaney Theatre; 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, Cottonwood Center for the Arts (both screenings part of Documentary Shorts)
"What does it mean for our culture right now to go on pilgrimage? ... Without knowing exactly where we're going, but knowing that something has to change?" asks Reactor co-producer Michael Stone. These are his questions in response to Japan's most recent nuclear tragedy: March 11, 2011's earthquake that triggered a tsunami off the coast, resulting in the partial meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Fukushima.
This half-hour documentary provides a brief and moving glimpse into the daily lives of the Japanese people as they attempt to adjust to an existence rocked by unexpected devastation. In one scene, a Tokyo resident by the name of Jen Mertens speaks to the urgency that many Japanese feel when confronted with the as-yet-unrealized effects of radiation. "People changing careers and admitting sexual orientations," she says. "I've never seen the scale or the depth of the change that happened after the earthquake."
The film is beautifully shot, with views of nature that convey a serenity one might not expect, and that are powerful when juxtaposed next to images of bustling city life and cramped railway cars. An emotive piano soundtrack provides a backdrop that gently complements shots of dancing cherry blossoms, but also wrenches the heart in scenes of suffering.
It is easy to become mentally numb to life beyond our borders — sometimes even beyond the yard fence out front. In watching Reactor, however, it becomes impossible not to relate to the people of Japan, as images of humanity are made more real than many of us take the time to consider.
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