Josh Parmer’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sennan Asbestos Disaster (ニッポン国 VS 泉南石綿村) - 2017
dir. Kazuo Hara | Goodbye CP, The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On
I posted months ago that I was finally getting around to watching this and originally it was one of the only films I'd be covering during my limited time with Japan Cuts last year. Well nearly 8 months later, and those failed attempts later, I've finally watched it in its entirety, and it destroyed me!
The documentary follows the 8.5 year trials and tribulations as the people of Sennan sue the government for not revealing the deadly health hazards and effects of working with asbestos. Director Kazuo Hara follows this group of plaintiffs and closely observes as they spend nearly a decade going toe to toe with the powerful judicial system in Tokyo.
Various plaintiffs and representatives are given enough screentime to feel truly invested into them beyond the fact that they are fellow humans and instead of a means to bring out the waterworks in audience, they feel like fully fleshed out individuals, almost like characters in a sense, as we learn to get to know most of them individually. I had certain people that I gravitated towards throughout and I think that is quite the feat for a work of this nature. I really think the 3.5 hour runtime truly benefits the power of the picture overall.
This is one of those works I could go on for ages about. I'm absolutely gutted I wasn't able to champion the film when it was initially playing back at Japan Cuts 2018, as it no doubt is one of the highlights from the festival. I haven't seen any of Hara's 5 previous films, but it's clear that he is a true craftsman and is most certainly one whose brief but decades expanding back catalogue I will be sure to watch through. Sennan Asbestos Disaster is one of the finest and single most important documentaries of the decade thus far, and through the emotional ringer it most certainly will put you. I think this powerful film will help pave the way for other areas across the world that may still be unjustly working with asbestos. A must see.