Living on the River Agano

Director: Makoto Sato

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


Makoto Sato and his small crew have not so much made a film as dedicated years of their lives to a place and its people and come back with a vivid, enthralling report. The filmmakers spent over three years living in Kanose, a town on the River Agano in Niigata Prefecture, not only filming everyday life, but also sharing it. There were times, Sato comments in his voice over, when it was more of a priority to help with the harvest than to shoot film.

Kanose and nearby Yasuda lie close to the Showa Electric Company factory that has poisoned the river by dumping organic mercury waste. The first time this happened in Japan, there was an international outcry. This second catastrophe has been all but covered up: most people affected by mercury poisoning have been denied compensation, and those unaffected have ganged up on protesters.

But this is not a 1960s-style agit-prop film. Saw's prime interest is in capturing the resilience and humor of the region's farmers and boatmen. Watching the growing relationship between the crew and the community is almost as inspiring as recognizing the courage of those who cope with mercury sickness.

Living an the River Agana won the Japanese Filmmaker Competition Grand Prix at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival in Tokyo.

Sunday Jan 23 9:30 am
Park City Library Center

Tuesday Jan 25 1:00 pm
Holiday Village Cinema I

Thursday Jan 21 1:00 pm
Holiday Village Cinema I


— Tony Rayns, Vancouver Film Festival

Screening Details


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