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  • Nov 3-5

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Film­mak­er Lucy Walk­er set out to make “a visu­al haiku about cher­ry blos­soms” in Japan, but changed her plans rad­i­cal­ly fol­low­ing the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake and tsuna­mi that hit the coun­try in March of 2011. Tak­en with the cher­ry blossom’s beau­ty and abil­i­ty to sym­bol­ize the ephemer­al qual­i­ty of life, Walk­er links the dis­as­ter with the pow­er of Japan’s most beloved flower to heal and inspire.  Walker’s stun­ning visu­al poem opens with a long clip of jaw-drop­ping real-life footage of the tsuna­mi, show­ing water sweep­ing hous­es and build­ings along like toys, lift­ing up cars, and swal­low­ing peo­ple. It then moves to inter­views with sur­vivors from a north­ern Japan­ese vil­lage in the heart of the dis­as­ter, who share their trau­mat­ic per­son­al expe­ri­ences of the tsuna­mi against a back­drop of cher­ry blos­soms — a sym­bol root­ed deep in Japan­ese cul­ture that sug­gests rebirth.

The Tsuna­mi and the Cher­ry Blos­som was nom­i­nat­ed in 2012 for an Acad­e­my Award as Best Doc­u­men­tary Short Film. In this qual­i­ty, intro­spec­tive doc­u­men­tary, Walk­er has cap­tured moth­er nature both at her cru­elest and at her most nur­tur­ing.  Jux­ta­posed with the har­row­ing sto­ries of many res­i­dents who lived through the tsuna­mi and its after­math – includ­ing the extra­or­di­nary threat posed by the flood­ing of the Fukushi­ma nuclear plant — is the spring­time bloom­ing of Japan’s famous saku­ra, or cher­ry blos­soms.  One man, who has inher­it­ed the posi­tion of orchard cher­ry mas­ter from the past fif­teen gen­er­a­tions of his fam­i­ly, describes nature’s dichoto­my of beau­ty and ter­ror.  And many sur­vivors com­ment on this spe­cial tree’s resilience, not­ing its regrowth in pre­vi­ous­ly-flood­ed areas and mus­ing that the trees pro­vide hope and strength as the Japan­ese peo­ple attempt to rebuild and improve their lives.

Lucy Walk­er direct­ed the film, and also pro­duced it with the assis­tance of Kira Carstensen.  Sup­port for the film was pro­vid­ed through a grant from the Women In Film/National Geo­graph­ic All Roads Film Project. Aaron Phillips was the film’s pho­tog­ra­ph­er, and Moby wrote the music.  In addi­tion to its nom­i­na­tion for an Aca­d­e­m­ic Award, The Tsuna­mi and the Cher­ry Blos­som won the Jury Prize in Short Film, Non-Fic­tion, at the 2012 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val; as well as the Envi­ron­men­tal Film Festival’s third annu­al Pol­ly Krako­ra Award for artistry in film.

Run­ning time:  39 minutes