THINK Global School

We love landscapes, but not on our mobiles. Please rotate your device

The Tohoku Team stand in front of Rikuzentakata

Roots of Hope

A student documentary chronicling life after the Great East Japan Earthquake

“At 14:46 this afternoon there will be a school-wide two-minute silence to mark the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake: teachers will be asked to switch off classroom lights, and everyone is asked to reflect silently on the suffering of those involved in the earthquake as well as what we can all do to support those who experience such natural disasters.”

TGS students heard this announcement over the intercom at school on March 11th, 2014. On the third anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, we felt a powerful moment of silence, accentuated by an intentional power cut, that let us connect the event we watched on TV with real people, real lives lost, real cities destroyed.

Three years later, northeast Japan is still recovering from the fourth most powerful earthquake in recorded history. After seeing the incredible reconstruction of Hiroshima post-Atomic bomb, Global Studies teacher Nick Martino felt inspired to coordinate a project in the Tohoku region where a few students could learn about the rebuilding efforts still taking place and create a mini-documentary about what they witnessed.

Four students were selected to the project and assigned roles on a production crew, including Director, Producer, Director of Photography, and On-camera. From April 10th – 15th, those four students, along with teachers Nick Martino and Lindsay Clark, visited Rikuzentakata to conduct interviews and record ground level findings of the rebuild efforts.

The Film

On March 11, 2011 the city of Rikuzentakata was hit by a devastating tsunami. Three years later, we’ve come to discover how its story has unfolded.

Roots of Hope: Rikuzentakata from River Wittke on Vimeo.

Meet the Tohoku Team

River W.

Director

TGS: Describe your role in the project.

River: My role as director was to create a story line and make sure we’re constantly moving in sync with our creative ideals.

TGS: Why did you want to take part in this project?

River: There are very few things in the world that aggravate me more than the modern media. Real information is swallowed by celebrity gossip, and matters of global importance disappear within a matter of weeks. Since I was a child, I wondered about those missing places. It’s as if they’ve fallen off the face of the earth, only revisiting the planet on the anniversary of their horror. When I was offered the chance to travel to Tohoku, to obtain a first-hand look at a region that had previously existed only on paper, I jumped.

Paul S.

Producer

GS: Describe your role in the project.Paul: My role as the producer was to make sure that the team is working and cooperating efficiently, as well as making sure that everybody else is doing their job. I honed my skills in diplomacy and tolerance. A strength I saw in River was to keep calm in times of crises.TGS: Why did you want to take part in this project?Paul: When I was given the chance to apply to the Tohoku project in March, I instantly thought of the Boston Marathon incident last year during my time in Back Bay, Boston. Since then, I’ve always looked at media coverage in a different, less oblivious way. Meaning that, when I heard of the Tohoku documentary that was being planned, I decided I wanted to travel up north and produce a fair, accurate and clear account of what is really happening.

Madeline S.

Director of Photography

TGS: Describe your role in the project.

My role as Director of Photography was to choose the visuals that would convey our story effectively and beautifully, and I learned/honed my skills in filming and my photographer/videographer’s eye.

TGS: Why did you want to take part in this project?

Madeline: When the earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku in 2011, I was 13 years old. It was the first time I had ever paid any real attention to the news, and I followed the story religiously. This was mostly because I had been taking Japanese for years, and my Japanese teacher knew people who had been affected. This personal tie, even as distant as it may have been, hit me harder than I would have expected. Three years later, I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to visit the area and to follow up on the story.

Jonah D.

On Camera

TGS: Describe your role in the project.

Jonah: My role on the trip as the main interviewer and deep thinker was to ask informative questions, place myself into the shoes of those who were affected and display my emotional intelligence through spoken and written word.

TGS: Why did you want to take part in this project?

Jonah: About 3 years ago, I remember watching as the media world blew up in huge headlines and stories about the “Great East Japan Earthquake” and the “Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.” I followed these stories and watched the news about the destroyed eastern coast of Japan. Within two weeks the stories were dropped and world media had moved onto reporting something else in our huge world, yet I remained curious. I kept on wondering what became of Japan after that earthquake.

Danielle R.

Head Editor

TGS: Describe your role in the project.

Danielle: Conceptualize in collaboration with the writers and director of photography, exactly how the media that was collected itself will be utilized in the project. I also played a major part in the writing of the script with aid from Paul.

TGS: Why did you want to take part in this project?

Danielle: While I lived in Thailand from 2008-2010 I participated in an organization called After the Wave, which worked toward rebuilding a major school in one of the devastated areas. In addition to visiting the school itself, my mom and I also took several kids into our house for a month or so. Seeing the damage that had been done to Tohoku from my TV screen in Geneva instantly reminded me of what I had seen and helped restore.

News

  • The film made its world premiere on June 12th at the 3rd annual Traveling Shorts Film Festival.
  • While the film is complete, our desires to share stories from the Tohoku region are still very much active. Read the articles written by team members from their times in the region.
  • We continue to post updates from the team using the #tgstohoku tag on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Slideshow

Please enjoy the following images from our production trip to Rikuzentakata and Ofunato.

Ready to embark on the educational journey of a lifetime?

A passion for travel. A strong academic record. And the desire to improve the world as you experience it. If this sounds like you, you just might be our ideal candidate! Start your application with a five-minute inquiry form - you never know where you might end up.

It all starts here.

Sign up if you would like to receive occasional news from us.

Subscribe

Ready to embark on the educational journey of a lifetime?

A passion for travel. A strong academic record. And the desire to improve the world as you experience it. If this sounds like you, you just might be our ideal candidate! Start your application with a five-minute inquiry form - you never know where you might end up.

It all starts here.

Apply Now