The tsunami and the cherry blossom (movie review)

The tsunami and the cherry blossom is an award-winning documentary by Lucy Walker. A member of our cherry team attended the screening at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival last Sunday and submitted this review.

The movie begins with an unedited 10 minute footage of the tsunami showing the dark wave overtaking everything as people watched from the mountain.

The movie focuses on the devastating effects of the tsunami that took place on March 11, 2011 in Japan. As the recovery efforts continue, cherry trees  (including a one-thousand-year-old cherry tree) start to bloom and bring hope to people hit by the tsunami.

As Japanese people talked about their love for sakura, I’ve learned a lot of things:

  • Sakura (the Japanese word for cherry blossoms) means “beautiful but not showy”
  • Japanese have words to describe the levels of blossoms on the trees:  ichibu (10% of blossoms), Nibu (20%), Sanbu (30%), Gobusaki (50%)
  • The word “maichiru” means that when blossoms fall, they look like they’re dancing.
  • The word “hana ikada” (which means “flower raft”) is used to describe floating petals
  • Tokyo Cherry Blossom Festival was cancelled after the earthquake and they asked people to refrain from hanami (picnic under the blossoms) as a respect for people who lost loved ones.

The movie shows beautiful images of cherry blossoms (courtesy of director of photography Aaron Phillips): the moon through branches, an accelerated visual of a bud turning into a blossom, sunrise on the branches, a wedding under cherry trees, a carp swimming under floating petals.

Some Japanese people blamed the flowers for looking so relaxed after the tragedy, but spring comes when it’s time ; there is always beauty and terror in nature.

The end credits alternates with haiku about cherry blossoms. Among them:

“a beautiful spring night vanished while we looked at cherry blossoms” (Basho)