Japanese director Toshi Fujiwara takes a camera and a small crew into the 20km affected zone around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where everything lays destroyed after a Tsunami and earthquake caused a radiation disaster at the plant. He talks to the people affected by the disaster who are being forced to evacuate by the government.
Fujiwara’s film, while admirable in its intentions and certainly with a worthwhile story to tell, is unfortunately a bit of a slog, repetitive in its testimonial style non-fiction narrative. The story is heartbreaking and many of the people spoken to are interesting enough but it’s all very self-indulgent, manipulative and preachy to the point where it becomes less a powerful exercise in informing the audience as it does one which rams the message down their throat.
It doesn’t exactly help that we have this incessant narration by Arsinée Khanjian, which is a less than subtle way of guilting the audience into connecting with the story and forcing them to feel sorry at every turn. The tragic real life story is enough to do that on its own without this heavy-handed approach.
A raw and unpolished aesthetic adds a stark reality to the proceedings. It may not be what you would call pleasant to look at but it’s in this way No Man’s Zone has a small success – it shouldn’t be nice to look at it. It’s not afraid to show the harsh reality these people have been left to live in.
No Man’s Zone opens with an extended 360 degree tracking shot of a devastated sea front, and is an example of the unfiltered gut punch the film occasionally delivers. But those moments are sadly wasted on a documentary that overall is slow, laboured, repetitive and ultimately inert. A real shame when the subject matter is so devastating.