Winner 2014

Independent Lens: Brakeless

Brakeless LTD, Bungalow Town Productions, BBC, NHK, IKON, DR, Independent Television Service (ITVS)

Rarely do we see a documentary running under an hour which takes a complex subject and examines it from every conceivable angle, yet does full justice to all its concerns and gives an almost total understanding of all the issues. Such a work is Kyoko Miyake’s Brakeless. It’s a film about the perils of speed that seems unhurried. It covers all the bases, and then some. Examining the reasons behind the 2005 crash of a West Japan Railways commuter train, which resulted in 107 deaths, the film places the event firmly into its historical, economic and socio-cultural context, while also giving a detailed, second-by-second account of the train’s journey that fateful day and the shocking reasons behind the driver’s actions. The testimonies of survivors are illustrated by delicate drawings and animations, which render the horror of the eventual impact indelibly, and the suffering of the bereaved as they search for answers is movingly and respectfully conveyed. Above all, it is about the nature of contemporary Japanese society, yet has lessons for us all. For an exemplary piece of documentary storytelling, Brakeless receives a Peabody Award.


Executive Producer for ITVS: Sally Jo Fifer. Deputy Executive Producer for Independent Lens: Lois Vossen. Producers: Kyoko Miyake, Rachel Wexler. Director: Kyoko Miyake.