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HBO Debuts TSUNAMI & THE CHERRY BLOSSOM Documentary Tonight, 7/16

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On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, leaving 15,372 people confirmed dead and 7,762 reported still missing. In the wake of the largest earthquake in the country's history, some people drew the courage to revive and rebuild from cherry-blossom season, which began within weeks of the tragedy.

Oscar(R)-nominated this year for Best Documentary Short Subject, THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM shows how nature can be a rejuvenating - as well as a destructive - force when it debuts tonight, JULY 16 (10:00-10:40 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO. Directed by Lucy Walker (the Oscar(R)-nominated documentary feature "Waste Land"), this poignant film debuts immediately after the debut of the SXSW Film Festival hit "Birders: The Central Park Effect," which offers a different look at how nature touches people.

Other HBO playdates: July 18 (12:15 p.m.), 24 (4:15 p.m.) and 28 (6:00 a.m., 3:15p.m.)

HBO2 playdate: July 18 (9:00 p.m.)

HBO Documentary Films presents another weekly series this summer, debuting provocative new specials every Monday through July 30. Other July films include: "Hard Times: Lost on Long Island" (July 9); "Birders: The Central Park Effect" (July 16); "Vito" (July 23); and "About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" (July 30).

THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM is a stunningvisual poem about the ephemeral nature of life, and the healing power of Japan's most beloved flower. The nation is transfixed by cherry blossom season, which runs from late March through April, with many people tracking the blossoms' short lifecycle and attending "hanami," or viewing parties, with family and friends.

Walker had originally planned to visit Japan to make a film about cherry-blossom season, but on March 11, 2011, while she was making final preparations for her trip, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck, triggering tsunami waves of up to 133 feet on Japan's northeastern coast. Initially unsure whether to continue, she flew to Tokyo with a small film crew and headed north to the Tohuku region, where she captured both the utter devastation and stoic resolve of survivors, many of whom had lost family members and friends.

THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM opens with harrowing home-video footage, shot from a hill, of a huge wave destroying the town below. A month later, a young woman stands on the same hill, remembering how she "watch[ed] people being consumed by the tsunami." An older man tells how he tried and failed to save his oldest friend, proclaiming, "I don't want a house. I don't want clothes. I don't want anything. I just want his life back."


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