Director Otto Bell Interview on The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima

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Otto Bell

Documentaries are surreal and informative. Otto Bell is one such Documentary Filmmaker who makes those surreal Documentaries and gets critically acclaimed in doing so. His new movie The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima is up on Vice and is also a short listed for Oscars 2021.

Here’s The Movie Culture Interview

Hello and welcome. The Movie Culture is great to be talking to you about The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima. How are you doing?

Otto Bell: I am well thank you! Awaiting our first baby, a wee girl, due in a few weeks. So happy days, all things considered.

Q. Could you tell us about what led you to embark on this project- The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima?

Otto Bell: I was triggered by a couple of batches of photographs. One set by Toru Hanai that showed the wild boars in the streets, and then a set of human portraits by Yuki Iwanami that revealed the plight of the human survivors. Both gentlemen are co-producers on the film and were key to getting this film made. 

Q. The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima is set in very out of the world setting, how was it like shooting in those locations?

Otto Bell: There’s an invisible heaviness in the air there, this unseen enemy of radiation that kind of haunts Fukushima. I shot the film before the pandemic began and at that time, I thought the abandoned streets were so unusual and different, but now the whole world feels a little like that!

Q. As many Documentaries come and go I always think how one finds a narrative. Could you tell me about that process?

Otto Bell: Yes, I committed fairly early on to this being an experimental, ambient film. I peeled back the exposition as much as possible and trimmed down the dialogue to only a handful of haiku-like statements. There are no talking head interviews to camera. The music is deliberately dysphonic. I was intent on immersing the audience fully in this errie, changed landscape. So I focused less on answering every question the audience might have, and more on provoking them to ask more questions themselves about what the hell is going on in Fukushima today.   

Q. 2021 Oscars, The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima could be something that we see out there. How do you feel about this?

Otto Bell: Anything that draws attention to the 10th Anniversary of the Fukushima Disaster on March 11th would be a blessing. So many Japanese citizens have made so many sacrifices and they deserve to be remembered at this time.

Q. As a Filmmaker be it Fictional or Documentarian in nature. What do you look in a project?

Otto Bell: I like a big backdrop peopled by extraordinary characters.

Q. This is The Movie Culture staple, as we based in India. We want to know are you big on International content or have you watched anything from Bollywood?

Otto Bell: I’ve been fortunate enough to film at the steel works in Jamshedpur, the sugar mills of Modinagar, and on the highways of Jharkhand and Meerut… but my love affair with your country began over 20 years ago with a visit to Palolem Beach in Goa. My favourite Indian filmmaker is Satyajit Ray – in part for his ability to get things done – and I also like that he started in Advertising, which gives us all hope.

Q. We often ask Talents for advice but to shake things up, would you like to tell us the best piece of advice you ever received?

Otto Bell: Just keep going. Stop at nothing to make films.

Q. Where can we find The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima? Please let our readers know about it.

Otto Bell: The film has been doing the rounds on the festival circuit and will receive its TV premiere on Vice on Sunday 31st of January at 9:30am ET. From there it’ll roll out globally online. I’m excited for your readers and my friends in India to see it. 

With this we would like to wrap up with the interview questions. The Movie Culture would indeed like to thank you for agreeing to this wonderful interview.

Otto Bell: Thank so much, please stay safe.

The Movie Culture Synopsis

It is great to see how his find works given he works with Facts and not Fiction that Directors can make up as they go along. Check out his answer on how he finds narrative in a documentary and how he makes it engaging. 

He is certainly right when he says, stop at nothing when it comes to making films. That’s such a straightforward answer for someone to have in their arsenal.

The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima is available on Vice. As Bell said, “Anything that draws attention to the 10th Anniversary of the Fukushima Disaster on March 11th would be a blessing. So many Japanese citizens have made so many sacrifices and they deserve to be remembered at this time.”