Minamata, as Explored Through the Manifesto Genre

Japan 70, Natalie Jongjaroenlarp

The woman wears her sash to represent the victims afflicted by the dreadful incident.

The genre of the manifesto is defined as a means of expression for a specific group to publicize something, usually what they want. In the case of Tsuchimoto’s Minamata: The Victims and Their World, the genre of the manifesto serves as the prototype. The film centers around the community that exists within Minamata, Japan and other close areas that suffered health problems because of the digestion of local fish that carried large amounts of mercury in their systems. It is later found out that this resulted from a nearby factory, owned by Chisso, releasing chemicals and mercury into the ocean and environment.

Through the use of personal interviews with the victims, video footage of the victims and the people who care about them and brief, informational sequences that give the facts of the event, the audience is able to clearly identify with the community as they draw closer emotionally to each individual in the film. For instance, near the end of the film, a personal interview with one of the victims is conducted. The interview focuses on a little boy, around twelve years old, whose mother consumed some of the mercury. The chemicals went to certain parts of his brain, forevermore making him retarded. The “disease” has taken away the bright future of success he once had. This is a good example of how powerful the manifesto genre can be. The genre gives insights as to how much this incident has dramatically changed the lives of the children and other victims of the mercury for the worse.

Because of the effectiveness of this format, the audience cannot help but feel much sympathy for this community and the tragic incident that changed their lives forever. This is especially illustrated through one of the last scenes where a crowd of people gather to help spread awareness of what happened in Minamata. The goal being: to help stop this from happening in the future. They are supporters of the families in Minamata and sympathize with them. They speak out to gain more supporters for the cause and try their best to let the public see what Chisso should own up to. In the hopes that justice will inevitably prevail, they showcase a few victims, like the woman shown in the screen shot above. The woman is proud to stand up for herself and her fellow residents who were also inflicted by this new disease. As a result of this incident, it has created a tight bond between the people living in Minamata, whether affected by the disease or not.

This speaks to the type of long-lasting culture that has survived there. Through this tragedy, the people have stood together, united, for a single cause reaching out to other areas for help and guidance. However, ultimately, they have made it through together. It is hard to believe that one community can go through so much and still come out at the end strong. The genre of the manifesto is perfect to document the lives of these people in Minamata because it cuts through to the heart of who they are and what they stand for.

The retarded boy is being interviewed about how he got the disease.


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