Inaugural winner press release (PDF)

For Immediate Release


Veteran Filmmaker Kazuo Hara honored in University of Pittsburgh’s inaugural best Japanese Documentary Award


Pittsburgh, PA: September 1, 2018. The Japan Council of the University of Pittsburgh is pleased to announce the winner of the first biennial University of Pittsburgh Japan Documentary Film Award: Sennan Asbestos Disaster, directed by award-winning veteran filmmaker Kazuo Hara. An award ceremony will take place at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2018 in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The ceremony will be followed by a screening of the film at 6:00 PM. The ceremony and screening are free and open to the public. Seating is limited; RSVP required. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Oyler ( or Charles Exley ( General information about the award and the ceremony can be found at  Free tickets to the screening are available at


Established by Pitt’s Japan Council to recognize exemplary documentary films promoting the understanding of Japan and Japanese culture, the University of Pittsburgh Japan Documentary Film Award is supported by generous endowments from Japanese donors to promote Japanese studies and deepen cross-cultural understanding at the University of Pittsburgh and in the region. The awards committee was led by professor and filmmaker Robert Clift (University of Pittsburgh) and well-known documentary filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda.


More than ten years in the making, Sennan Asbestos Disaster follows a dwindling group of dying former asbestos workers as they seek justice and recognition from an indifferent Japanese government As Mr. Hara follows these plaintiffs through their successes and failures, his film also examines the power of the Japanese state and its continued responsibilities to its citizens. In praising the film for its profound effect, Mr. Soda notes that Sennan Asbestos Disaster “shows the painstaking process of the eight years of lawsuits. I was able to physically experience what it's like to fight against the Japanese government.” Mr. Hara, whose previous works include the The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), is known for provocative and engaging stories that give voice to people on the margins of conventional society. Sennan Asbestos Disaster has already received the 2017 Audience Award at the Tokyo Filmex International Film Festival and the 2017 BIFF Mecenat Award at the Busan International Film Festival.


The film screening is co-presented by the Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival (, which runs from September 22-30.