New York, 1971. Following his celebrated days as one of the most revered photojournalists of World War II, W. Eugene Smith (Johnny Depp) has become a recluse, disconnected from society and his career. But a secret commission from Life magazine editor Robert Hayes (Bill Nighy) sends him to the Japanese coastal city of Minamata, which has been ravaged by mercury poisoning; the result of decades of gross industrial negligence by the country’s Chisso Corporation. There, Smith immerses himself in the community, documenting their efforts to live with Minamata Disease and their passionate campaign to achieve recognition from Chisso and the Japanese government. Armed with only his trusted camera, Smith’s images from the toxic village give the disaster a heartbreaking human dimension, and his initial assignment turns into a life-changing experience.
The city of Minamata, Kumamoto, declined to lend its name as a supporter to a local screening held in August 2021 organized by volunteers, prior to the nationwide release of the film in Japan in September 2021. The city told The Asahi Shimbun that it was uncertain whether the film depicted historical events accurately and was conducive to dispelling discrimination and prejudice against patients. Kumamoto Prefecture, on the other hand, supported the screening.