PBS: Wide-Angle: About Face

Client: WNET
Role: Director of Photography
Format: Panasonic Varicam HD
Locations: Japan

PBS: Wide-Angle: About Face

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution reads: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

In the aftermath of World War II, Japan’s new pacifist constitution renounced the right to wage war and maintain military forces. Instead, Japan created the Self-Defense Forces with a strictly defensive mandate. In recent years, though, the line between defense and offense has blurred. In 2004, Japan sent its Ground Self-Defense Forces to Iraq — the first deployment of Japanese soldiers in an active combat zone in over 60 years.

With North Korea test-launching ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan and China’s economic and military expansion, Japan has started reconsidering its regional strategy. Today, Japan has a $40 billion military budget, the fifth largest in the world.

Japan’s About-Face is a remarkable window into the shifting role of the military in post-war Japanese society. I worked with filmmaker Micah Fink who had acquired unprecedented access to the National Defense Academy, Japan’s “West Point.” We followed Defense Academy cadets preparing for a future that may involve overseas deployment, and meet with a group of peace activists — some of them atom bomb survivors — on a grueling two month, 750-mile protest march from Hiroshima to Tokyo. We also witness joint maneuvers with the U.S. Marine Corps, a surveillance flight over the Sea of Japan, and the DDH Hyuga — the first Japanese aircraft carrier built since WWII.

This program offers new insight into the future of Asian geopolitics.