I had the pleasure of attending the Full Frame Documentary Festival again this year. There were so many incredible films to see and I was grateful to have been able to squeeze “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” into the very busy schedule.
So, how would I describe this forty minute Oscar nominated documentary about the horrific tsunami that ravaged Japan in 2011?
Bone chilling and healing. Two very different words, but precisely the ones that most accurately describe this masterpiece.
The film opens with a scene that still haunts me: People standing on a hill watching the wave hit and their city being destroyed, calling out to others on lower ground to “hurry” to higher ground while a black, relentless wave that sends houses floating like surfers creeps in after them. Watch the first minute of this video, which is an abbreviated piece of the opening scene – but it gives you a sense of the shock, angst and pain that we all felt in that theater:
We sat there with chills covering our bodies, tears streaming down our faces. Some people were howling. It was so very real.
Nature can be so very cruel. And then, it can drastically shift gears, suddenly and unexpectedly becoming the source of healing. In fact, it can be an immense, emotional tidal wave of healing, as this film illustrates.
Enter stage left: the cherry blossoms. Their ability to return, despite mother nature’s overwhelming wave, represent a rebirth and hope.
Although cherry blossom gathering parties were cancelled in 2011, many people ventured out to see the beauty of the trees. We learn that the cherry blossom has ten stages before full bloom. Each stage has its own word to describe it. When the flowers die and fall, they are given a different name. These delicate pink flowers, with unwavering beauty and death, have often been associated with mortality. They are a fitting symbol of what the people of the Miyagi Prefecture witnessed.
This film is powerful tool for educators. It can be used to illustrate the power of nature, to discuss the history of a tragedy and to reflect upon culture. I am confident that you will remember this documentary for a very long time. Let it and the lessons of the cherry blossoms stay with you.
Visit the film’s website for more information.