Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Widow makes film to pass down memories of 1995 sarin attack"

(Photo borrowed from bizzXceleration.)

From today's Japan Today:

Shizue Takahashi is painfully aware of what 15 years mean for many people. It is long enough for memories to fade and for a generation to grow up with little knowledge of the 1995 chemical attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult on the Tokyo subway system that claimed her husband’s life.

Though she accepts fading memories as part of life, the 63-year-old’s determination that the incident not be forgotten spurred her to make a leap from her prior role, as a public-speaking representative of a group of victims and bereaved families of the sarin gas attack, to interviewing people involved in the case herself.

Having met many victims and public officials through her work, she decided to ask them about their experiences and thoughts about the attack. The resulting hour-long film will be screened March 13 at a public gathering in Tokyo ahead of the 15th anniversary of the incident that left 12 people dead and more than 5,000 others injured.

"I think victims must work to remind people," said Takahashi in a recent interview. "You cannot stop time or stop people from forgetting…but (by showing the film) I want to feel that people are learning something from the great sacrifice we made."

Since September, she spent roughly 20 hours meeting and interviewing 11 people. Among them was former National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu, who was shot outside his condominium in Tokyo shortly after the subway attack. A police officer and several others with links to Aum were arrested in connection with his shooting, but none of them was indicted. The case faces a statute of limitation at the end of this month.

Takahashi also visited a woman paralyzed by sarin and the brother who cares for her at their home. In an effort to accurately portray their everyday lives, she focused not just on their hardships but also the things that made them happy. Others interviewed included a doctor, a journalist and a former prosecutor chief.

Read the whole story at Japan Today:

15 years have gone by but quite often we see Aum-related stories in the news. "So as not to forget" is a powerful theme and form of salvage ethnography. How memories are retained, remembered, reconstructed and represented by various victims also seems fascinating and will set this film apart from other attempts to capture and explore the Aum story.

For more on Aum Shinrikyo and the Tokyo subway gas bombing check out:

Murakami Haruki's Underground

Mori Tatsuya's films A and A2

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