Why do grassroots screenings?

March 2nd 2012

Why do grassroots screenings?

This question might occur to you. East River Films Inc. is a commercial production company, so shouldn’t we try doing a commercial event? Why are we engaging with people using a non-profit, grassroots approach?

Theme-based film festivals and theatrical distribution are familiar ways to screen films to the public. But, we have been engaging with and observing the film industry over the past ten years, and see that existing platforms are unfavorable for commercial release of feature length documentary films. “How many documentary films do you watch in a theater in a year?” This question answers why we don’t often see feature-length documentary films getting a theatrical run. These films cannot be handled with the same marketing strategy used for a typical Hollywood movie. Rather, a different approach is needed when presenting these films to the public. Cinema Forum Fukushima is indeed a mini film festival with a theme, but it is not restricted to one location with a certain seasonal time slot like other film festivals. Cinema Forum Fukushima does not require a red carpet premier nor film market transactions on site. We prioritize mobility and diffusion of the works to a public beyond the film society demographic.

Cinema Forum Fukushima’s subject is the instant and semi-permanent aspect of nuclear catastrophe. It tries to capture the unknown figure of this giant catastrophe, the demonic chain reactions that are happening beneath us. Due to cover-up, semi-permanent and drawn-out suffering are often ignored by public. An invisible wall has been embedded in our compassion, so that the public’s judgment has been clouded. A film lets us see only a single instance of suffering, but it can convey the depth of suffering. Collecting a variety of cinematic viewpoints may illuminate some areas where we the public can lay our hands on this vast suffering landscape, and may lead to a glimpse of the structure contained within this catastrophe. In this glimpse we can capture our own inner voice.

“Such images cannot be more than an invitation to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers. Who caused what the picture shows? Who is responsible? Is it excusable? Was it inevitable? Is there some state of affairs which we have accepted up to now that ought to be challenged? All this, with the understanding that moral indignation, like compassion, cannot dictate a course of action.” Susan Sontag states in her book “Regarding The Pain of Others.”

Sontag does not offer any quick or consumable solutions, but rather accurate analysis between emotion and objects of suffering, which echoes with our inner voice. We need to listen to our inner voice sincerely again, and then share our inner voice with others, before the world forces drastic change upon us.

“To designate a hell is not, of course, to tell us anything about how to extract people from that hell, how to moderate hell’s flames. Still, it seems a good in itself to acknowledge, to have enlarged, one’s sense of how much suffering caused by human wickedness there is in the world we share with others. Someone who is perennially surprised that depravity exists, who continues to feel disillusioned (even incredulous) when confronted with evidence of what humans are capable of inflicting in the way of gruesome, hands-on cruelties upon other humans, has not reached moral or psychological adulthood. No one after a certain age has the right to this kind of innocence, of superficiality, to this degree of ignorance, or amnesia.” ~Susan Sontag “Regarding The Pain Of Others”

At East River Films, we believe in cinema as well as grassroots movements. We want to present films in a professional way like film festivals are able to do, and also maintain the mobility and flexibility that grassroots movements are blessed with. East River Films will maneuver Cinema Forum Fukushima into a hybrid of these two platforms. Some might criticize us as “Astroturfing.” Including this, we would like to share and to be open about Cinema Forum Fukushima with participants.

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