Table Speech

“Power of Films,” Movie Screening at Quake-hit Areas

August 03, 2011

Ms. Amiy Mori
Movie Director, Photographer, Media Producer

I am a portrait photographer of public figures from various fields, including Hollywood celebrities. I feel privileged to get wide support for my lifework “Christmas Photos of the World” series and be able to work as a photographer over 20 years.

“DAYS WITH YOU” (2009) was the movie I first directed, starring Erika Toda, a popular actress among young people. Its script writer was Ms. Rie Yokota, famous for other works including “One Liter of Tears.” I was fortunate to be nominated for the New Director Award of the 2009 Shanghai International Film Festival. When I was just about to work on my next movie “DONOR,” the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan.

After the Earthquake, I kept questioning myself how I could help others in need. I realized that I might be able to help heal the mental scars of the Earthquake survivors. I started making arrangements immediately, yet I waited for a while until the situation settled a bit to allow people enjoy some entertainment of movie watching.

(TBS TV program ‘Kizuna (human bonds) Project” was presented.)
●Scene 1: Movie screening at an evacuation center
The evacuation center at Iwanuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, was filled with laughter, as the evacuees enjoyed the movie “Tora-san” that took their minds away from the dreary life after the Earthquake. They appreciated the opportunity of movie watching, just as though they were at movie theaters.

Ms. Amiy Mori launched this project to deliver some entertainment to evacuation centers, with the collaboration of volunteer image and acoustic specialists. What was their message behind this project?

●Scene 2: Narration by Ms. Amiy Mori
“We can be of some help to heal the mental scars, after the initial turmoil. I would be happy if people could leave their sorrow behind, while they enjoy the movie, and have a moment of laughter, entertainment and relief.”

Nearly 240 people are staying at this evacuation center. Ms. Mori ordered the big screen for this project, hoping that people “can enjoy the atmosphere of the real movie theater.” The evacuation center was turned into a make-shift movie theater in just 2 hours.

“The KARATE KID,” starring Jackie Chan, was chosen for screening at this center, as nearly half of the evacuees were children. The two movies shown here were provided by the distributor and the motion-picture company free of charge.

●Scene 3: Children captivated by the movie
As soon as the movie started, children were glued to the screen. They said how happy they were to be able to enjoy the movie in a theater-like setting.

●Scene 4: People expressing their gratitude
“As people took shelter over a period of time, children and the elderly started to have problems. We appreciate this opportunity which heals their troubled minds.”

A huge roar of laughter broke out as “Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s Hard Being a Man)” was shown. The team visited 5 centers during 3 days and held 6 movie screenings.

●Scene 5: Narration by Ms. Amiy Mori
“Photography provides a record. I believe photos reflect people’s minds. We tend to encourage the evacuees, even when they have endured enough hardship. I think we, the people around, are the ones who have to do our best to support them. I sincerely wish the movies convey our prayer for their good health, both physically and mentally.

(End of the program).
Seeing how people enjoyed the movies made all our efforts worthwhile. I realized the need to keep continuing this activity over a long period of time, since earthquake survivors are obliged to lead a life as evacuees for quite a long time.

I visited Ishinomaki last month, the town where the tsunami inflicted devastating damage. We managed to secure a wall for the 100-inch screen and showed a movie to 30-40 audience. After returning to Tokyo, I received a gratifying report. The movie changed the life of a six-year-old boy, who had suffered PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after the earthquake and refused to go to school. This boy was encouraged by the words of Jackie Chan in the movie, “Try to change yourself, by making small yet steady effort every day.” He now goes to school and jogs around the park every day over one month.

I realized how influential and powerful films can be. Volunteer works have made me even busier, yet I am determined to continue this project. Some places we have visited were left as ruined, even 4 months after the earthquake. Our first movie screening was at a school gymnasium, where 600 people were staying. I am grateful to companies such as NIPPON EXPRESS or TOTO which understand and support our project. Equipments are provided by SONY free of charge. I will continue the activities of “healing the mental scars through the power of films.”