"Dogs Without Names"  (2015  Written and Directed by Akane Yamada, Japan)

A powerful film documentary drama about nameless dogs and the people who save them, reduced from over 200 hours of real footage taken over 4 years.

Story

 

Television director, Kanami Hisano (Satomi Kobayashi) is devastated by the passing of her beloved dog Natsu to disease. Then, at the suggestion of an esteemed senior movie director, she starts filming a movie with dogs as the theme, visiting adoption centres and shelters caring for dogs within the 20 kilometre "red zone" of the Fukushima nuclear accident. It changes her life. Encountering people thoroughly devoted to the daily struggle of saving even one more animal life. Kanami is tremendously moved. Realizing that action speaks louder than words, Kanami resolves to do something meaningful.

"Dogs Without Names"​

Akane Yamada

Filmmaker, TV director and author

 

Akane Yamada is the director and producer of the film ‘Dogs Without Names’ (2015), which is about abandoned dogs and cats. She has over 30 years of experience as a TV director and recently directed a TV program titled ‘Happiness of Mucchan’ (2014 on NHK) which tracks “Mucchan”, a dog that was abandoned in the 20 kilometer ‘red zone’ around the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Her other program titled  ‘A women who sleeps with 1,000 cats’ (2015 on Fuji Television) features Yuri Nakatani, a representative of the Non-profit organization “Minashigo Dogs and Cats Rescue” in Hiroshima, Japan. Yuri Nakatani’s organization rescues cats from a “high kill’ public shelter in Hiroshima.

Chibawan

An animal protection group in Chiba, Japan

 

It is run by over 250 volunteer members based in areas around Tokyo since 2002. They are strongly against unethical breeding, promote spaying and neutering and hope to have a ‘no-kill’ society. Over 5,000 dogs and cats have been rescued by Chibawan from public ‘high kill’ shelters and puppy mills. They find foster homes for their rescued pets. Chibawan does not own a building to house the shelter so, all their rescued dogs and cats are fostered by members in their own homes.

Mieko Yoshida in the photo is the Vice-President of the Chibawan.

Minashigo Dogs and Cats Rescue

A non-profit organization based in Hiroshima and active in Tochigi, Japan

 

Their ‘lifelong breeding’ philosophy with members includes veterinary advice from vets with immense professional knowledge.

Yuri Nakatani in the photo is a representative of "Minashigo" (Orphans) who started taking care of stray cats in 1990. Her activity spread out and Minashigo Dogs and Cats Rescue was established as an NPO in 2005. The  ‘lifelong breeding home’ was built in 2007. Minashigo saved and transported 1,400 animals from the 20 kilometer ‘red zone’ around Fukushima’s nuclear plants. They cooperate with Hiroshima city and have been saving all cats and dogs from being killed at the public shelter since 2013.Currently, about 1,300 dogs and cats are being given shelter and care at their facilities in Hiroshima and Tochigi.

"Ever since the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster that occurred on March 11, 2011, many dogs were left abandoned or lost from their homes. This is a heart-breaking, compassionate story filled with hope and affection for the animals that they love." ~ Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2016

A RARE AND UNBREAKABLE BOND

JAMES HERON (Executive Director at Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Toronto)  

MARCH 1, 2016

Akane Yamada’s moving docu-drama finds the countless lost dogs and cats in the 20-kilometre “red zone” around the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“A powerful glimpse of the 3.11 disaster that gives a new perspective”

Last year, researchers at Japan’s Azabu University School of Veterinary Medicine made a fascinating discovery: both dogs and their owners who trained a long gaze on one another exhibited elevated levels of oxytocin, the hormone associated with nurturing and attachment. Increased oxytocin levels reflect the feel-good feedback that bolsters bonding between parent and child, and go a long way to explaining how dogs have come to be accepted as “man’s best friend.”

 

Whether rooted chemistry, emotion or the spiritual, there is no disputing that the bond between us and our canine friends is something rare and uncanny. It is this sentiment that is at the heart of Akane Yamada’s poignant docu-drama Dogs without Names.

 

A television director, Kanami, played by Satomi Kobayashi (Pale Moon, Kamome Diner), is devastated by the passing of her beloved dog Natsu. At the suggestion of a friend she throws herself back into work and a documentary about dogs, in particular the plight of those suffering as the output of unscrupulous “puppy mills” or awaiting adoption—or more likely euthanasia—in overcrowded animal control centres.

 

At this point the film shifts from a fictional drama about a grieving filmmaker to the documentary film she sets out to make. We witness painful scenes as abandoned animals await their end (161,000 animals die annually in Japan), but she also meets some of the exceptional and passionate people dedicated to saving them. The members of the Chiba-wan group identify adoptable dogs from among the feral and take them into their homes while searching for potential adopters. She learns of the tireless operators of Hiroshima’s Minashigo Support—Yuri Nakatani and Yoshimi Terada—who travelled to the stricken region following the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster of March 11, 2011. Within three days of the event, they had entered the 20-km exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant and they share extraordinary footage from eerie post-apocalyptic towns populated solely by animals: the dead, the starving and the lost.

 

Kanami’s journeys also take us to a nursing home in Yokosuka where both seniors and elderly dogs cohabitate, each bringing comfort and companionship into lives hollowed out by time. She reconnects with the members of Chiba-wan to rescue 46 abused animals from a disreputable breeder, and later joins excursions to post-3.11 temporary housing to reunite lost dogs with their owners, in one case four years after the dog was swept away in the tsunami.

 

Director Yamada manages to skilfully combine and balance the fictional and nonfictional components throughout, allowing dialogue between the fictional Kanami and her ex-husband (Takaya Kamikawa) to provide structure and further contextualize the documentary footage. Satomi Kobayashi brings tranquil determination and a quiet charisma to her role, and her scenes with Kamikawa engage with a guarded intimacy that feels authentic.

 

For every scene of inhumanity—cruel puppy mills that see dogs as little more than product, or heartless owners for whom an animal is but an accessory to be disposed of when something new comes along—there are people like Nakatani and Terada. Their tireless energy and dedication truly inspires, as does Yamada’s film. It is a tale of hope, compassion and humanity.

Satomi Kobayashi ("Kamome Dinner" '05, "Megane" '07, "Pool" '09)
Nobuko Shibuya, Chibawan, Minashigo-Support

Takaya Kamikawa

Written, Directed & Produced by Akane Yamada
Structure : Mistue Matsuya

Director of Photography : Minoru Yamooka

Film Editing : Wataru Oizumi

Line producer : Nobuo Takeuchi
Music : Ayano Tsuji

Theme song : ULFULS “ Naketekuru ”

Production : Small hope bay production

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