The Targeted Island: A Shield Against Storms

(Hyoteki no shima Kaji kataka)

JAPAN / 2017 / Japanese / Color, B&W / Blu-ray / 119 min

Director, Narration: Mikami Chie
Photography: Hirata Mamoru
Editing: Sunagawa Atsushi
Assistant Director: Tobaru Hideki
Producers: Hashimoto Yoshiko, Kinoshita Shigeki
Produced by: Documentary Japan, TOFOO, LLC., Mikami Chie
World Sales: TOFOO, LLC.

The problem of US military bases in Okinawa is Japan’s problem—an obvious, yet hard to convey reality. Director Mikami Chie continues her careful documenting of the construction of the Takae helipads, to be used for the V-22 Osprey military aircraft and the new base in Henoko; conveying the voices of residents and others who rush to the scene to sit in, in fierce and unwavering resistance, suffering injury and arrest. We also see the islands of Miyako and Ishigaki, where the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are being deployed, and where progress continues on the construction of a missile base. Okinawa is also a treasure trove of culture, rich with songs and festivals—this film depicts fully the humor and rebellious spirit used to laugh off authority, as well as the traditional rituals held to celebrate fertility and abundancewhich are indispensable in places of resistance.

[Director’s Statement] I considered myself fortunate when The Targeted Village was selected for the New Asian Currents program in 2013, and We Shall Overcome for the International Competition program in 2015. Nonetheless, as I was getting ready to travel to Yamagata from Okinawa this time at my own expense, another surprise reached me: my latest film was chosen as one of the 2017 Special Invitation Films, marking my third consecutive entry into the festival. I am sincerely grateful to the documentary fans that gather in Yamagata for warmly welcoming all three films I have made, and deeply moved that such a thing has been possible.

However, the Okinawa military base situation only deteriorates, and the turbulence has only continued to increase. In Takae, Higashi Village, despite ten years of sit-in protests by local residents, the dispatch of 1,000 riot police from all over Japan led to the completion of construction of US military helipads at the end of the last year. In Henoko, the construction of a new base began on a full scale last spring. Here too, there has been an increased crackdown, with nonviolent sit-in protests that had been sustained for twenty years seeing brutal removal, followed by arrests and long-term detention.

The wish of the Okinawan people is simple. Instead of an island of armies, they want to live undisturbed and at peace. They have borne the unbearable for seventy-two years since the close of World War II. Why must their hopes be denied? To tell the world the story of the Okinawan people as they find themselves driven into an increasingly difficult situation, I have made these films at a quick pace—one every 18 months. Each time, I am convinced that it is not Okinawa that is at issue, nor Okinawa that is in the process of destruction, but Japan as a nation.

Especially in this, my latest film, The Targeted Island: A Shield Against Storms, I have tried to describe the crisis of a country content to let popular sovereignty, pacifism, and democracy all collapse rather than reveal the anguish of Okinawa. How long will it be before we hear news of the death of the first Japanese soldier since World War II? It is a question asked by Nanao Tabito at the end of the film in his song, Soldier A. What do you think the answer is?

- Mikami Chie

Journalist, filmmaker. Mikami joined Mainichi Broadcasting System as an announcer in 1987. In 1995 she moved to Okinawa for the launch of Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting Corp. While working as main anchor for the local news program, she produced many documentary programs about Okinawan culture, nature, and society. In 2010 she received the Women in Broadcasting Award from the Society of Japanese Women in Radio and Television. The television version of The Targeted Village won many prizes including the Grand Prize at the Za-Koenji Documentary Film Festival. The theatrical version (2013) was chosen by Kinema Junpo as Best Cultural Film of the year, and at YIDFF 2013 it won the Directors Guild of Japan Award and the Citizen’s Prize. Her film We Shall Overcome was invited to be shown in the International Competition at YIDFF 2015 and in the Documentary Competition at the 2015 Busan International Film Festival. She currently works freelance as a journalist and filmmaker, and teaches Okinawan folklore at Okinawa International University as an adjunct professor.