Curse of Minamata

Waves overlapping one another, the sun beating down on the worn-out fisherman, all the quiet nature, about to be disturbed by an upcoming storm of deceit, greed, and avarice. Centered among the small town of Minamata lies a company known as the Chisso Corporation. The company, over the span of 35 years, has released toxic chemicals in the form of methylmercury into the bay of Minamata. Soon thereafter, the bay, along with its many inhabitants, became polluted with the growing toxin. Tsuchimoto Noriaki presents his documentary of the events by utilizing the rhetoric appeals in order to advocate change as well as represent the people of Minamata. Using facts and logos, he provides information for the viewer to keep in mind while looking at images of the victims. Images start to move into the pathos of rhetoric appeal and help build emotion for the documentary. Throughout the film, food plays the role of food. Like any documentary everyone and everything is playing their part, no acting, and no pretending.

Tsuchimoto utilizes the definition of food that states that food is essential to all human beings. In the documentary, he showcases the pure food as it begins to get contaminated by the poison that is industrialization and modernization. In the screenshot, one can see the significance of food in the town of Minamata. Food is the essential giver of life and plays such role in this documentary. As the “giver of life” begins to tarnish with the stain of industrialization, it soon can no longer support life and therefore pushes towards death. The documentary places the Minamata disease at center stage while giving food a supporting role. Tsuchimoto uses the documentary in order to advocate change and convey knowledge among those who are ignorant. His documentary of the disease puts the idea of food as a life giver, a life sustainer, and a life taker.

Fish such as the octopus are the main source of food for the people of Minamata. Eating the fish raw can result in pathogens entering the body.

The town of Minamata depends on the nutrients that grow of live around them. As shown in the film sequence, the fishermen cast their lines into the water, pluck out the fish and either sell it to the market, or cook it for a meal. In this case, fish is seen as the life provider and life giver, the pure substance in which humans have to consume in order to sustain life. He further pushes on pathos when he describes or inadvertently shows how the water and subsequently the fish become contaminated with chemicals. This alone is able to push the idea of contamination of something clean, something pure, into the minds of his audience. Utilizing such a substantial symbolic imagery, Tsuchimoto persuades his audience into subconsciously seeing the “pure” become tainted with poison.

Tsuchimoto’s documentary does not assign pseudo roles to those who participate. As a documentary, he tries to exhibit those individuals as normally as possible. He shows food as being just what it is, food. His definition of food goes further to describe it as a life giver and life sustainer, and utilizing this definition, he is able to concretely cement the idea of purity being contaminated. Food, in this case, is the victim…the victim of industrialization and modernization.


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