Minamata (2020) – Transcript

War photographer W. Eugene Smith travels back to Japan where he documents the devastating effect of mercury poisoning in coastal communities.
Minamata (2020)

In 1971, the American photographer W. Eugene Smith is famous for his numerous “photographic essays” published in Life, but he becomes a recluse. Initially he refuses a commission from Life magazine editor Robert Hayes to return to Japan and investigate the poisoning of Minamata residents. A passionate Japanese translator, Aileen, urges him to accept it. Smith is finally convinced to do his best to unmask the devastating effects of corporate greed, an accomplice of the local police and government. He travels to Minamata in Japan to document the devastating effect of mercury poisoning and Minamata disease in coastal communities. This disease is caused by industrial pollution linked to the activities of the chemical company Chisso. Armed with only his Minolta camera against a powerful company, Smith must win the trust of the broken community and find the images that will bring this story to the world. While there, Smith becomes the victim of severe reprisals. He is therefore urgently repatriated to the United States. However, this report will make him an icon of photojournalism.

* * *


Excuse me.

Thank you.

Listen! Children are asleep. So, let’s be quiet.

Thank you very much.

Thank you very much.

This is not much.

Thank you very much.

Please, have some food.

Thank you very much.

Try this one.

Is it good?

It is good, isn’t it?

Is it good?

It is good.

It is good.

It is good.



It is hard to talk about those things.

It is not just about us.

Akiko is our eldest.

They have tried to tell us…

that what she has is cerebral palsy,

but we knew better

She was born ill and she still is.

She will never get better.

But our family bonds are strong.

Akiko is… our treasure.

We have six children,

and we all work hard to take care of Akiko.

It takes five hours a day to feed her,

but she brings us closer as a family.

When you meet her, you’ll see.

She is a beautiful soul.

We don’t want to bring attention to our family…

but we don’t have a choice.

I drive a truck for Chisso.

For Chisso!

But it’s not enough to take care of a family with the needs we have.

We thank you for your kindness.

Not at all.

If you don’t mind…

Can we take some photos of Akiko tomorrow?

Well really, that kind of thing…

…you’ll have to excuse us

I’m sorry. No.

I’m sorry.

I will make your beds.

Thank you.

Please! There’s nothing much left but…

Thank you.

Excuse me! Excuse me!

He seems that he cannot fall asleep.

Do you have anything to drink?

A drink? Just one minute.

He loves whiskey for sure.





Good night.

Good night.

Last night I rode my bicycle all the way up to Tsunagi…

…because I heard about one family.

At first, they didn’t want to let me in.

I asked them why…

they haven’t been seen in the neighbourhood lately.

I could see the shame on their faces.

It turns out their young boy was very sick with Minamata disease.

I asked them to join us, that we wanted help.

They considered but ultimately their shame won out and they declined.

They love their son just as they should.

In all cases of Minamata, there is someone to blame.

The suffering is caused by an evil…

…that we know as a fact!

So, here we are.

We have a choice.

We can let the world know.

If we are loud enough, they will listen.

Accept your responsibility!

Come on.

Accept your responsibility!

Is he alone?

I think so.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

Is this yours?

How do we turn it to photos?

Aren’t you afraid of touching me?

Thank you.

Thank you.

This way.

Put your stuff here.

It’s for my aunt.

Thank you very much.

If human beings are still the masters of creation…

we have to overthrow this poisoned world.

Is this civilisation?

Is this the so-called period of rapid growth?

But done at the cost of sacrificing countless lives?

Our beautiful blue ocean is now made into a deadly sea by those people.

So, if you are a human being, please stand up…

and fight!

Remember, we never wanted a war.

But we have to fight.

Let’s make this the last battle for humanity.

Please stand up!

Go! Go!

What are you doing?

Chisso is winning back the support of the people…

because we’re influencing student activists…

who are acting violently against Chisso personnel.

This is not who we are.

Chisso are the ones acting violently.

We need to stay together on this or we’ll lose.

You know we’ll lose!

We’ve offered good terms.

Chisso are promising compensation will be quick.

We don’t want any more fighting in the town…

or shame brought to Minamata.

Chisso is behind this.

You are blind to it.

That’s not true!

Is your goal to have Chisso move somewhere else?

That’s what they’ll do and where will our town be then?

This is not just about this town.

It’s about big companies all over the world

invading the towns of good, hard-working people,

and polluting their existence.

It’s happened before…

and it will happen again!

Don’t get so emotional!

Calm down!

Don’t cause any trouble.

We understand how you feel.

We are all in the same pain.

But we all want it to end.

The signatures speak for themselves.

The people have spoken!

This is the right way to settle the matter…

for all.

No more fighting!

May we see the book?

That’s not necessary.

Have you pressed your signature on this document?


And you?

And you?

They have overwhelming signatures of support in the book…

yet they won’t show it.

Do we believe this is fair?

Let us see the book!

Show us! Show us!

That’s my signature. I never pressed it!

That guy is dead. How could he have signed?

You’re right. He is dead!

What’s going on here?

Tell us!

You’re full of lies!



Sorry for the intrusion.

Excuse us.



Thank you.

Let’s eat together.

Good, right?

Mr. Eugene, are you married?

He has two children.

Does he have photos of them?

Unfortunately, he hasn’t got any photos of them.

Let’s go.

I’ll go out for a while. Don’t get worried.

I’ll give you a bath soon, Akiko.

You’re a good girl.

That way, we can’t interfere.

You are Yamazaki Mitsuo, right?

We will search the place.


Get the children inside.

Don’t get in our way.

Go. Go.

Don’t take photos!

Don’t resist!

Don’t resist!

You should be ashamed of yourselves.


They’re gone.


Everything is okay.





Bring water.


Some people may come and go with the best of intentions…

but we can’t count on them.

This is our fight.

Why do you think Chisso are hitting us…

harder and harder?

Why do you think they’re getting bolder and bolder?

You know why.

They can threaten us…

but we are going to the shareholders meeting…


I’m not good at public speaking.

I believe that a picture worths a thousand words.

I want to help you, but I need your help too.

I want to spend some precious time with your families.

If I did this,

I will be able to help you

to win your fight.

Does anyone agree to be photographed?

Thank you.

Are you drunk?

You are murderers!

How many people are outside?

Over 500.



Mr. President.

We know there is verdict that will arrive soon.

We hope that Chisso will accept responsibility for its negligence.

We are not here for luxuries.

Just to know that we will be looked after

and able to die in peace.

If you are human, listen to what we are saying.

I and Sadae Ogata.

I understand that you don’t know who I am.

But you should.

Both of my daughters fell ill.

Both suffered more than I can imagine anyone suffering, let alone a child.

My eldest daughter suffered from convulsions for months.

So much pain that she couldn’t cry.

She is dead now.

And my other daughter, Miyuki…

will never be able to spend a day without care.

My husband and I cry often.

We weep because we fear for what will happen…

when we are no longer able…

to take care of her.

Mr. President…

You’ve got nothing to say?

You are a human being too, right?

We are the same, and yet…

how can we be this different?

How can we?

I am sorry. I truly am.

What happened to you…

What you have gone through…

brings sorrow in our hearts.

Please forgive us.

My child also has Minamata disease.

He is nine years old.

I work on the boats still…

when the fishermen allow me to…

but because of my symptoms…

they don’t want me on their boats.

So, it’s my wife that needs to work.

She works on the boats sometimes…

and many nights she is forced to take care of both of us.

She can’t do that forever.

Can she?

Mr. President.

We know that you will pay for the old victims…

but you must pay the same for the new victims as well.

It’s your responsibility!

Am I wrong?

Mr. Uyishi, can I have a moment?

Thank you all for coming and speaking with me.

Your plight brings me much sadness.

But we’ve added up the costs of your demands…


We simply cannot pay.

Unfortunately… this is our final answer.

I can’t take this anymore!

Kyushi! Kyushi!

They don’t believe we’re in pain.

This blood is on your hands!


Are you okay?

Can I move Akiko’s legs?

Excuse me.

Can I move Akiko’s left hand?


Akiko, I will move your hand

We have to pay.

Somehow we will find a way.

We must.

We won!

Today, we have won the battle.

But the war persists.

We must continue to fight.

To fight for our children…

so their children have something…

that they can fight for.

But all of you here…

and the people who stood with us…

have taught me that this a fight we can win!

Go home tonight and find some happiness with your families.

Because tomorrow we have more to do.

To fight for those that cannot.


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