Unfinished Film Beats The Odds
Sep. 23, 2016
A Belgian filmmaker set out to make a documentary about a town in Fukushima ravaged by the nuclear disaster, but others had to see his project through when he was tragically killed in a terrorist attack.
Gilles Laurent's documentary, "Abandoned land," was featured at a film festival in the French city of Marseille in July. The film looks into the fate of a town called Tomioka in the shadow of the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
"The town of Tomioka will probably disappear. People are afraid of radiation," a narrator says in the documentary.
The film combines images of a nearly abandoned town undergoing decontamination work, with conversations and natural sounds.
Laurent was married to a Japanese woman, and lived in Tokyo. He began working on the film in 2015, and wanted to depict the unfair situation of the people who suddenly lost everything to the nuclear accident.
Laurent's wife, Reiko Udo, stood by her husband as he dedicated himself to making the film.
"We shared our outrage that these people had to suffer in this way," she says. "People live like trees, taking root on their land. I think Gilles was interested in this connection and wanted to tell the audience how painful and serious it is if this relationship is broken."
But Laurent himself became a victim of another tragedy. He had returned to Brussels to edit the film when he was caught up in a terrorist attack on subway station on March 22.
"He could have survived with a difference of a mere few seconds. His work took him to nearly 40 countries. I have no words for my husband's sudden death on a quiet, peaceful morning in a Belgian subway," Udo says.
After suddenly losing the love of her life, Udo found herself left behind with 2 young daughters. She has been hoping to release the film her husband had been passionately working on up until his death.
Laurent's longtime collaborators in Belgium have succeeded in carrying out his intentions. Cyril Bibas was working as a producer on the film, and has now taken over the project.
"We must complete all the unfinished films Laurent had put his heart into," Bibas says.
"Abandoned land" was finally completed after 5 months of editing and at the film festival, Bibas greeted the audience on behalf of Laurent.
"Gilles Laurent, who should be standing in my place, is no longer here with us, as he became a victim of terrorism. I am honored that his film is being showcased here," Bibas said at the event.
The film shows people striving for happiness amid their struggles.
"I was really moved by the survivors," said one member of the audience.
"Seeing them trying to get back on their feet was inspiring," said another.
Laurent's comrades hope people will not lose hope even when their peaceful lives are disrupted by terrorism, war or a disaster.
"I hope Gilles's film gives people the chance to think about how one should stand up against all the unfair and dangerous events taking place around the world," Bibas says.
"We are all helpless against terrorism or nuclear accidents. But Gilles has taught us about the importance of each person, considering how they should face and act in these situations. This is what we must work on doing towards the future," says Alexander Davidson, the film's sound engineer.
Laurent's young daughters still do not know the real reason behind their father's death.
"I hope the film gives my daughters the chance to think about and understand how their father tried to contribute to society," Udo says.
The documentary is set to be released in Belgium and France and there are negotiations to include it in an international film festival in Kyoto, so the message of the film will be shared with more of the world.