One man explains how the cherry blossom reflects the Japanese character, saying, “Each flower is tiny, and you can’t see one individually. But it’s beautiful when you see lots of flowers together. Japanese people see themselves that way, too.” Photos by Lucy Walker/Courtesy of HB
Director Lucy Walker and director of photography Aaron Phillips used Canon’s EOS 7D DSLR to shoot their documentary The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, which focuses on the 2011 Japanese earthquake and subsequent rebuilding. The film is currently airing on HBO. Touring devastated areas by car and on foot, Walker and Philips shot interviews with survivors in the areas hardest hit by the disaster, juxtaposing that footage—and news video of the tsunami—with scenes showing the beginning of cherry blossom season, a cherished annual tradition in Japan.
Walker says, “The compact size of the Canon 7D and its familiar stills-camera appearance helped avoid any intimidation factor. [Interviewees] felt comfortable, and you always want the scene to be about the people you’re filming—candid, honest and emotional—and not about the crew and the equipment.”
Crafting beautiful images is as appropriate for a documentary as it is for any other kind of film, Walker believes; there’s no reason why a documentary has to have a traditional “documentary” look. “People often think of documentaries as being poorly shot and low quality, but I like to think of documentaries as being potentially very beautiful,” Walker explains. “Just because it’s depicting real life doesn’t mean that it’s ugly. I believe you should be able to deliver results that stand up to a big-screen cinematic blow-up and look absolutely stunning.”