We Are All Radioactive is an online episodic documentary film created by San Francisco-based journalist, Lisa Katayama, and TED Film Director At Large and creator of TEDTalks, Jason Wishnow, that tells the story of a community of young surfers who are helping to rebuild a small coastal town destroyed by the tsunami in Japan in March 2011, with a focus on sustainability.

The aftermath of the tsunami has affected many communities in a variety of ways. Many people are still afraid of the long-term affects of radiation on their health, have lost trust in the government, and the economic tolls of the event will plague the region for years to come. Furthermore, of all the funding that went to the Tohoku relief effort in the months after the quake, many of these small coastal towns who were affected more directly saw nothing.

Portable talked to Katayama, who writes about Japanese culture for US publications like Wired, the New York Times, and Fast Company about why this is such an important story to tell;

“After big disasters, we often see a lot of disaster porn and dramatic news stories, but it’s important for the world to know how people persevere under less-than-ordinary circumstances. These guys lost everything, their homes, family members, their will to go in the water; and yet, they’re using this tragedy as an opportunity for empowerment, entrepreneurship, and personal growth. They’re also following the documentary series as it unfolds, and I like to think that that plays some part in encouraging them to keep being awesome.”

To find out more about the unique project, a concept of unlocking further chapters in the series via Vimeo, has been implemented by the duo, which Wishnow explained;

We Are All Radioactive has the unique business model of being a crowd-funded episodic documentary series, meaning, every time we hit a financial milestone, we release a new chapter.  Each episode is a distinct, stand-alone vignette telling one part of a combination of complex, multi-faceted stories, with no absolute end in sight.  Our first few episodes paint the individual portraits of surfers and fishermen rebuilding coastal Japan. These are people who maybe grew up in the region, or who even moved to this region to help out, then became completely devoted to reconstruction in a truly beautiful and altruistic way.  Subsequent episodes dive into the lingering fears of nuclear contamination.”

Katayama went further and offered the duo’s views on the advantages of this kind of socially conscious documentary style and how it could be implemented further in the future;

“We think episodic crowdfunding might be the future of cause-related documentaries.Instead of buying a ticket to watch a film, in this model people are contributing to fund the creation of the film, and then everyone gets to watch it for free.”

Wishnow also explained the importance of making people aware of a subject area which has rarely been explored by the media at large and global governments;

“The initial lack of information and the subsequent spread of misinformation about the nuclear disaster will leave a lasting emotional and psychological toll on a lot of people. The memory of Fukushima will haunt us for a long time, but there is a lot of confusion over what is, and what isn’t, safe. We spent time with nuclear scientists, government officials, artists, activists, and inventors to bring together hard facts about the meltdown and to also share some of the more compelling subjective responses. Unlocking more episodes means more details and more information can be released into the world. Within two days of announcing this, we received enough support to unveil Chapter 1.”

So far, there has been a positive response to the project so far, with non-governmental organisations offering assistance to the region due to the work of Katayama and Wishnow.

“Greenpeace did some water testing out in Motoyoshi and found it to be safe. An organic farmer living nearby also started an organization dedicated to radiation monitoring for locals. I don’t want to give away too much, but the fear of radiation has evolved quite a bit from when we were shooting last summer,” divulged Katayama.

With a strong sense of empowerment already underway for not only the locals (half the footage is shot by Wishnow, and the other half is shot by the locals themselves using waterproof cameras), but also curious viewers who have the opportunity to influence future episodes by making suggestions to the producer and director, the We Are All Radioactive project only has two days left for donations to ensure the completion of the first season, and sustain the project for a second season .

You can donate to the cause here.