The Shiranui Sea

Last but not least, I would like to talk about The Shiranui Sea, the fourth documentary about Minamata disease by Noriaki Tsuchimoto. A bit of background: Minamata disease is a condition named after residents of Minamata, Japan started showing strange symptoms, including loss of motor control and difficulty with speech. It was discovered that the condition was caused from ingesting mercury, which had been being dumped into the bay by the Chisso corporation. Consumption of the local fish, the primary source of food and income to many residents, led many citizens to develop Minamata disease. The Shiranui Sea was filmed nearly 20 years after offical diagnosis of the disease, and over 40 years after Chisso started their illegal dumping. At 153 minutes, the documentary gives detailed accounts of the lives of many of those affected. We get to see how difficult it has been to receive compensation or adequate medical services. Worse, there is still mercury in the bay, and the people are still eating the fish. Fishing is huge for Minamata, and they do not have the resources to cut their connection to the Ocean. Furthermore, many do not know another way to live. However, only those with the worst conditions are getting help, and even that is not much. Combined with the shame many feel over coming out as having the disease, the whole situation is very bleak for the citizens of Minamata. The hardest part to watch was when the filmmakers interviewed children who had been born with Minamata disease and those who cared for them. Mothers who were pregnant while eating the contaminated fish could pass on the disease to their children. Many of these children were in their teenage years now, but were mentally handicapped from their condition. Adding to this, their limbs were so crippled that they needed help feeding themselves. The documentary gave an honest, unembellished account of not only their lives, but also the lives of their caretakers who had been assisting them since they were very young. All I can say is that watching this and then following it with 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days was a bad choice on my part. A Disney movie should have been thrown in in-between.

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