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25 September 2022: Umitori – The Stolen Sea at the Shimokita Peninsula


Umitori – The Stolen Sea at the Shimokita Peninsula
Tsuchimoto Noriaki, 1984, 103 min, 16mm
Japanese with English subtitles

Umitori takes place in Shimokita Peninsula on the northern edge of the mainland, which was becoming a “nuclear energy peninsula” undergoing tremendous development and serving as the home port for Mutsu, a nuclear-powered ship. Focusing on the fishermen and their stories, Tsuchimoto and his crew made their subject matter the “theft of the sea” perpetrated by giant business conglomerates. While the fishermen of Minamata were obvious victims of the mercury poisoning tragedy, the fishermen in Shimokita were inadvertently becoming the permanent victims of another announced tragedy. Tsuchimoto interviews the fishermen, especially focusing on a stage play actor and his boat­-owner family, establishing (as became his practice) a complex reflection about the threat brought to small communities by the forces of “progress”.

“I thought fishermen were people who were never afraid of the sea. People would laugh at me and say: ‘Even if we do not say it, our fear is growing day by day.’ They know the depth of the sea, the best times to go fishing. Every day they read the colour of the sea, the shape of the waves, read the sky and the clouds, listen to the sound of the wind. Only then are they able to decide if they will go out to sea or not. Such people are always the first ones to suffer a great ordeal in the modern world.” – Tsuchimoto Noriaki

Screening as part of Tsuchimoto Noriaki's retrospective