YIDFF 2017 Cinema with Us 2017
Nuclear Cattle
An Interview with Matsubara Tamotsu (Director), Shiba Takeshi (Producer)

A Problem with No End in Sight—It Must Be Documented

Q: The phrase “they are not allowed to live” is upsetting. Why did you focus on domestic livestock in Fukushima, and decide to make this film on cattle?

Matsubara Tamotsu (MT): In June 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I first went to Fukushima, worried about the future of the Soma Nomaoi horse festival that I had reported on 30 years ago. When I learned about the situation of the cattle and the farmers, I realized that it was a dire problem with no end in sight and felt I had to document it.

Q: Not allowed to be sold, the cattle were abandoned and left to starve. Even those who survived were slaughtered by the state to avoid letting contaminated beef on the market. I was speechless to see how the livestock were suffering to their death. You must have witnessed many such painful instances in your filming—how did you feel?

MT: To send healthy lives to slaughter just for the convenience of people and their economic reasons—wait a minute, I thought. Livestock is meant to be consumed as meat, but to kill just because they had become useless commodity—I had to question that. I had many discussions with ranchers about the weight of life.

Shiba Takeshi (ST): Two years ago, Mr. Matsubara submitted a 20-minute short that was the precursor to this film to the Human Documentary Film Festival Abeno in Osaka. I was on the jury and the film won the grand prize. After the awards ceremony, he came to me to discuss making a feature length film and showed me the rushes. I saw his careful reporting and recording of testimonies of many people over the course of five years.

MT: Some people raise their voices against nuclear power, but there are those who are silent, not knowing what to do. In fact, there are more of the latter. If you look at just one side, you will see Fukushima distorted. By constructing the film as a group drama, I wanted to allow the audience to see both sides.

ST: —So that that the audience can be open to different voices and emotions can be conveyed. It was imperative that the audience was free to draw their own conclusions.

Q: I hope that the cattle will be allowed to live on, even as subjects of academic study. I’m concerned that the cattle may live 20 years but the farmers who take care of them are getting old. Will you continue to follow up on them?

MT: Since scholars claim that five years’ research on low-level radiation exposure is not enough to yield results, I didn’t touch upon it too much in the film. But I hope to continue reporting on this, since it will be a useful study for mankind. Farmers actually don’t know much about the life expectancy of cattle, because they had always raised them as livestock to be sold. The elderly may have to give the cows up eventually, if they are to live another decade longer. The state demands the owners to sign an agreement in order to send them to slaughter. It is equal to signing a death warrant. Instead, I wish the government would forcibly enforce the slaughter if they are to stipulate that this is an unprecedented nuclear disaster and a national emergency. Then the farmers would be able to start anew, albeit resenting the government. Currently, the farmers are forced to bear the guilt of killing their own animals by signing the agreement. They told me that this was the hardest part, because they lose the morale to raise animals again.

(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)

Interviewers: Kusunose Kaori, Sato Tomoko / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Nagayama Momo / Video: Okawa Akihiro / 2017-10-08