Witness: Disaster in Japan

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck 75 km off the eastern coast of Japan. The powerful quake violently shook coastal communities and large cities, including Tokyo, located 231 miles southwest of the epicenter. Almost immediately, tsunami warnings blared, urging residents along Japan’s coast to quickly move to higher ground.  For the next several hours, residents watched in horror as a series of massive waves slammed into the coast, inundating entire towns and sweeping across the countryside, laying waste to everything in its path.  Throughout, amateur videographers, news crews, government agencies, tourists, and countless others were recording the sights and sounds of the unfolding catastrophe.

Weaving together their footage, Witness: Disaster in Japan reconstructs the earthquake and tsunami as they happened, entirely through the eyes of those who experienced them.  The show takes viewers inside the halls of Parliament to witness the initial moments of the powerful earthquake; inside Japanese homes and businesses to witness the relentless force of the quake; and later, inside Sendai Airport as the tsunami advances inland, turning the tarmac and surrounding land into an angry sea of murky water and debris.

Witness: Japan’s Disaster contains minimal narration, no after-the-fact context, no post-disaster interviews—just compelling footage, captured as the events unfolded. The soundtrack comes from the comments of the characters, recording themselves as the earth shakes uncontrollably and a wall of water comes charging across the ocean at speeds of more than 500 miles per hour. Witness: Japan’s Disaster is both a powerful documentary and a lasting historical document, a record of an unprecedented tragedy, as it was experienced by those who lived through it.

Tune in tonight at 10P et/pt for the full story. The episode will also be available tomorrow on iTunes, with a portion of the proceeds going to relief efforts in Japan.


  1. CathyDixonSmith
    April 14, 2011, 9:04 pm

    this was outstanding!!!!! Just letting us watch the footage without someone telling us something every second was a stroke of genius. Kudo’s to ever produced this show. Keep up the good work. Campbell Scott was perfect choice for what little narration there was.

  2. randeefloren
    April 15, 2011, 4:30 am

    excellent program… but the "banner" ads were distracting and seemed disrespectful.

  3. CherryBomb
    April 18, 2011, 3:23 am

    This was by far the most heart-breaking, gut wretching and powerful documentary I have ever seen. I felt helpless watching this but now I’m more determined to send whatever help I can to Japan. Also I agree with Cathy, the amateur and news footage told far more than any narration could.

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