The Earth Asleep

The Earth Asleep 

GB / Japan / 80 min / 2021

Available to watch on BFI Player

Film by Clara Casian
Music by Robin Richards
Produced by Bren O’Callaghan

Interviewees: Monk Eigo Takahashi, Masahiko Haga, Itaru Sasaki, Keiko Iwama, Jotaro Urabe, Takeshi Yuhara
‘Epitaph’ Poem by Maria M Casian

Commissioned by HOME, Arts Council England and The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Supported by University of Salford.

Please see here the full list of credits. 

Live Performance

As well as the BFI Player release, the film was screened on Fri 10 Sep and Sat 11 Sep 2021 at HOME, Manchester, with a live musical accompaniment – click here to find out more. The format of The Earth Asleep involved a projected screening of the original film with a live score consisting of piano (Chris Illingworth), synthesizers (Robin Richards, Brendan Williams), cello (Margit Van Der Zwan).


An artist film by visual artist Clara Casian about one of the most powerful earthquake and tsunami ever recorded, with music by composer Robin Richards, received its premiere on BFI Player to mark the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan disaster. The haunting travelogue addresses the ways in which our exposure to extreme live-trauma in the form of rolling news and citizen reportage has resulted in an inability to process grief at a manageable, human scale.

The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 killed over 15,000 people and caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – the worst such incident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. As the world attempts to digest similarly unimaginable loss during the Covid-19 pandemic, film, poetry and live music intertwine in this live rhythmic montage, conjuring a pathway by which the human soul might navigate unseen astral dimensions.

Clara Casian quote: “To go far with the tripod and the camera, with the plans of meticulous interviews, with the burning heart lit by the desire to discover distant realms, people and forgotten histories, it may seem a fearful or unusual thing. Mystical signs, symbols and incomprehensible rituals strike the memory of those who are no longer. The years pass, and the events enter into a shadow account, and only those who have suffered bear the memory of their dear ones. From their tears, to the light of the ritual fire, to the strange murmur of temple prayers, from the blinking of footsteps in the mud and the contorted forms of the water-swept vegetation, we recalled a time unprecedented, so that we never forget that the earth has delicate systems that must be taken care of.”

The Earth Asleep Trailer

Film stills

Production stills (photo credit Atsushi Kuwayama)

Production still during the filming of Haga Mahasiko and volunteers at Kiri Kiri Koku, Otsuchi, Japan.

Production still during the filming of Keiko Iwama in Otsuchi, Japan.

Production still during the filming of Jotaro Urabe and Takeshi Yuhara, Sendai, Japan.