Aileen Smith and Johnny Depp are collaborating on a new film that tells the tragic story of Minamata



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“I just talk my head off, so please just ask away,” said Aileen Mioko Smith when we were sitting in an office set up for interviews sometime in July.

We were here to discuss the film Minamata (Longride, 2020), released in Japan on September 23rd, starring Johnny Depp and directed by Andrew Levitas. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2020, but wider release was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film focuses on the work of W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978) and Aileen Smith, who document mercury poisoning populations in Minamata on the island of Kyushu.

The story is loosely based on the book Minamata, Co-author of W. Eugene Smith and Aileen Mioko Smith, First published in 1975 von Holt, Reinhart and Winston and reprinted by Crevis Publishing in Japanese in September 2021.

The film tells of the time when activists founded the allegedly responsible Chisso Corporation Ltd. The environmental tragedy culminated in a feature story in LIFE Magazine 1972 and a court ruling in favor of the victims in 1973.

Aileen Smith talked about making the film JAPAN forwarding Mid-July 2021. She particularly emphasized that the film offers an exciting opportunity to convey the story to a wider audience.

The film vividly shows the suffering of the people in the city of Minamata. Despite the simplification of some dynamics, it conveys the story in a powerful way that leaves the viewer indignant at the suffering of the residents.

Speaking to journalists in Japan at an online press conference on September 2, Johnny Depp said he hoped the film could “raise awareness of the needs of people today.”

Director Andrew Levitas used the same media event to send a message to the Japanese audience: “I really hope this film inspires everyone to realize both what happened and what happens next.”

The film started showing in Cinemas in japan on 09/23/2021.


Author: Arielle Busetto


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