‘Minamata‘ is a 2020 historical drama film directed by Andrew Levitas and is based on a screenplay by David Kessler. Based on a real incident, the film is co-produced by Johnny Depp and ranked third in the Oscars 2022 Fan Favorite Film contest. It had its initial premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2020.
LIFE Magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith (Johnny Depp) has become a recluse and a drunk, despite his editor Robert Hayes (Bill Nighy) begging him for a story. The Japanese translator Aileen Mioko (Minami Bages) arrives in New York and pleads with Eugene to travel to Minamata, Japan where a corporation is dumping toxins in a nearby river, causing mercury poisoning or “Minamata disease” to the locals. Many have horrible birth defects, but the company is denying all responsibility. At first hesitant, Eugene travels to Japan and witnesses the effects of the pollution for himself. The locals are hesitant to allow their sick relatives to be photographed, but as tensions rise, Eugene realizes that he must convince them to tell their story.
This movie deserved better. MGM was planning on releasing the film in the United States but got cold feet following Depp’s ongoing legal issues with his ex-wife. Fortunately, Samuel Goldwin Films released it in North America where it received a mixed reception from a hypocritical industry of access media critics.
In truth, this movie weaves a tragic tale told through the eyes of a man who had a tragic life, but in the end, exposed one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in the world. The film captures a small part of the story and does take liberties with the history. Nonetheless, it tells that story quite well and helps you feel the emotions of the Japanese villagers and how even their culture was affected by the incident. It highlighted their pain, suffering, and their strength as a community.
Johnny Depp is superb. He is a master at his craft and even in the midst of personal turmoil, he delivers on this role with such dexterity and skill that you could not help, but resonate with. You could not ignore his on-screen presence as he performed the role of W. Eugene Smith.
The rest of the cast does a good job as well. Minami was brilliant as Aileen and did a good job of capturing a community member desperate to get help.
Bottom line, Minamata is a sad, but beautiful tale about a community fighting for justice and the man who helped them exoise the truth. In a just world, this brilliant piece of cinema would have won several accolades.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong foul language, Violence, Troubling images
FAVORITE QUOTES: If humans beings are still the masters of creation we have to overthrow this poisoned world.
Check out the trailer below:
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