Saturday, June 26, 2021


I published a post on William Eugene Smith almost 10 years ago, unknowing that a film would be made after his life story.

Minamata is the true story about a 1971 trip to Japan by acclaimed news photographer W. Eugene Smith (Johnny Depp). He’s first seen as an alcoholic, war-traumatised casualty with a bohemian lifestyle betokened by a shaggy beard and ever-present beret.

His days as a star snapper for Life magazine are behind him and, although he thinks nothing of swaggering into an editorial meeting and throwing his weight around, editor Bob Hayes (Bill Nighy, playing it implausibly hard-boiled) ruefully gives him the bum’s rush. 

Then Smith receives a visit from a young Japanese woman, Aileen (Minami), ostensibly for a Fujicolor commercial but really with an ulterior motive: she wants him to bring his camera to the Japanese village of Minamata, to alert the world to the damage caused by the Chisso company’s chemical plant.

W. Eugene Smith Photographing a Fishing Village in Minamata (1973) ©️ 2019 Takeshi Ishikawa

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