Beth Balaban

The 49th Day

Hidekazu with the "ihais" - spirit tablets - of his brother and father. Written on the tablets are there holy names.  These tablets are kept at the family altar inside the home.

“This is a very important day for sending his spirit on… for sending him on to the next world,” says Tsugiko Ouchi as she prepares what she will wear to today’s memorial service. Her husband, Hiroshima survivor Saichi, died forty-nine days ago, and in the Buddhist tradition, this is the day his spirit will transition to its new life.

Like everything in life now – the post-evacuation life – events big and small become reminders of what has been lost. After spending 20 minutes rifling through everything in her bedroom drawers and carefully separating her dry cleaning, Tsugiko realizes she’s missing her best black kimono – the very thing she wants to wear to today’s service. The kimono, her son tells her, is back home in Yamakiya hanging in a close that seems frozen in time since they were forced to leave after the nuclear disaster. Learn More…


The Smell of Cabotage in the Morning

The offending itinerary.

Logan Airport, 4:30am “You may be alright,” Chris, the Air Canada ticket agent tells us. “But it’s risky. That’s flying too close to the sun for me.” And so begins Friday the 13th, and our trip to Japan to film SON OF SAICHI. We’ve been accused – more accurately our travel agent has been accused – of cabotage. It’s illegal. And it means we’re grounded. Google cabotage and you’ll find a Wikipedia entry that highlights our exact situation: Cabotage situations can occur as a consequence of hub-and-spoke operations. Consider that Air Canada has a major hub at Toronto that offers flights to several U.S. cities. While a passenger is able to buy a ticket from Boston to Toronto, and a separate ticket from Toronto to Seattle [in our case Minneapolis] that same day, both flights cannot be offered on the same itinerary because this would effectively be a U.S. domestic… LEARN MORE


My Old Country Home

Today – on the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster – we remember the country and people of Japan – especially our friends in Yamakiya who have opened their homes and hearts to us and our cameras. In their honor Dir. Beth Murphy contributed this piece to Huffington Post.


The Family Altar

An ancestral altar where the living pay respects to the dead and appreciate the unity of all the ancestors, and the importance of family lineage.

Tsugiko Ouchi is 87-years-old, yet giggles like a school girl as she hands us a worn copy of a newspaper article. There she is in the accompanying picture, kissing her husband, Saichi, a survivor of both Hiroshima and the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. “I was visiting him in the nursing home,” she tells us, “and as I was getting ready to leave, he looked so sad. So I asked him for a kiss.” Such displays of public affection are rare here, and even more so among the elderly. When you’re in Tsugiko’s presence, she is perpetually making and serving green tea. A silver cylinder with a tiny knob on top holds the leaves which she extracts with a small matching scoop to top off a mesh strainer. She stands as she does this, and the slight age curvature of her back is pronounced in this position. Slowly, she lowers… LEARN MORE


Filming “Son of Saichi”

Hidekazu, the son of two-time nuclear radiation survivor Saichi, works with a student human rights group to study the environmental impact of the Fukushima disaster.

SON OF SAICHI (pronounced Sah-ee-chee) is the working title of our new film – a Principle Pictures short – and the reason Beth Balaban and I are heading to Fukushima, Japan today. We are trying to understand what it means to reconsider a life, reconceive catastrophe and imagine a future. Our story focuses on the Ouchi family, affected in unimaginable ways by nuclear radiation. Sixty years ago, when the first atomic weapons were dropped on Japan, Saichi Ouchi was a military medic in Hiroshima. After World War II, he returned to Kawamata, the fertile land of his youth, where he took over the family rice farm with his wife, Tsugiko. When the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was commissioned 60 miles away in 1971, they were too busy raising 4 children to give it much thought. Saichi’s family didn’t want to move him into a nursing home two years ago, but… LEARN MORE


Uganda’s Justin Bieber

Alex Ssekweyama lives in the western Ugandan village of Kakumiro. His family’s status in the community comes from his mother’s success – people walk far distances to visit her drug shop where she doesn’t only dispense life-saving medications, she also confirms diagnoses, makes referrals to hospitals and always shares a kind word and gentle touch. The family home is the only gated one on the street, and the property is packed with prized mango, banana and orange trees. Life here serves as the inspiration for Alex’s singing and songwriting. When he heard we were coming to visit, he put on his best suit – a dark, over-sized jacket with pants that nearly matched. He was beaming when he greeted us. My name is Rioman. Well, that’s what I call myself when I sing, he grinned. And I want to be Justin Bieber. He could hardly contain himself while his three… LEARN MORE


So, this is what film directors are supposed to do…

We just visited the Taj Mahal! Sort of… Bengali film director Ahsanullah Moni made this decision: spending $58 million is worth it to give those who can’t afford a trip to India the chance to see “the” Taj Mahal. He spent five years building a replica of the 17th century monument in Sonargaon, a small town that will be an hour’s drive from Dhaka when the new highway system around the capitol city is finished in a couple years. But today it took us almost 3 hours. Open for just a short time now, the Banglar Taj Mahal is already considered one of the best spots in the country for couples to get engaged, giving it the Indian reputation of the Temple of Eternal Love even though Moni didn’t build it as a memorial to his wife as Emperor Shajahan did. No doubt there’s something enchanting about this pink-trimmed place–and… LEARN MORE


Principle Voices: Beth Balaban on Bangladesh

Associate producer and asst. editor Beth Balaban is heading to Dhaka I’m really excited for my upcoming trip to Bangladesh. It will be my first trip abroad with Principle Pictures, and the first big shoot I’m a part of. It’s also my first time shooting one of our branded films (for Novartis), and I’ll be using our brand new camera, the Panasonic AF 100. I love this camera! The shallow depth of field, precision focus, and accuracy and saturation of the colors make the pictures gorgeous! When I started at Principle Pictures I had a strong background in theory from Emerson University where I’m wrapping up my MFA, but very little practical knowledge. Over the past year, I’ve progressively learned more and more about each phase of the production process, starting with grant writing and pre-production and eventually moving on to shooting and producing. Now, I primarily edit our branded… LEARN MORE


The New York Observer Article

The New York Observer highlights films premiering at Tribeca Film Festival including our own BEYOND BELIEF.

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