JUNEAU, Alaska — A ball. A boat. A little girl's sandal. Filmmakers are working to find – and tell – the stories behind some of the items that have washed up on North American shores following the deadly 2011 tsunami in Japan.

"Lost and Found" aims to reunite items discovered by beachcombers and others who feel compelled to return them to their rightful owners, co-director John Choi said.

A trailer for the film, which is still being produced, features two men affected by the items they've found. John Anderson found a volleyball on a beach in Washington state and Marcus Eriksen, head of an expedition that sailed from Japan to Hawaii to look for tsunami debris last year, found part of a boat. Neither of the items has been linked to their original owners yet.

"It was just like, Whoa, oh man! There's one of them balls with all the writing on it," Anderson says in the clip. "I'm more interested in the story behind it. You know, I would sure like to know what happened to these people. It would be nice to know that they survived or this was at home while they were away – just this got washed away."

Eriksen said when his team first saw the boat, there was initial excitement, "because we had been watching the ocean for a few weeks, just wondering what's out there. But when we approached this, it quickly went from fascination and excitement to, like, the sobering reality that this was someone's property, and we were very quickly filled with compassion about, you know, who lost this boat."

"They didn't lose it," he said in the clip. "It was taken from them by natural disaster, so I feel compelled to find that individual."

Monday marks the two-year anniversary of the disaster, which devastated a long stretch of Japan's northeastern coast and killed thousands of people. The Japanese government estimated that 1.5 million tons of debris was floating in the ocean in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, but it's not clear how much is still floating.

Tsunami debris is tough to monitor and distinguish from the everyday debris – much of it from Asia – that has long been a problem along the West Coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said just 21 items of the more than 1,500 reports of possible tsunami debris – including balls, a motorcycle and boats – have been firmly traced back to the tsunami. However, the agency lists scores of other items along the West Coast and across the Pacific Ocean as potentially linked.

Choi first got the idea for the documentary about 1 1/2 years ago, after hearing a news report discussing a tsunami debris field. He started thinking about what might wash ashore, and how cool it would be if there was an effort to return found items.

He connected with co-director Nicolina Lanni. At the time, he said, nothing had washed ashore. The effort took off after they met Seattle-based oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who shared his thoughts on what might happen and encouraged them in their effort.

The Canada-based filmmakers have been filming, on and off, for about a year. They established a network of contributors, and at times have been involved in trying to track down information on items found, like the little pink-and-purple sandal. A woman they met at a recent beachcomber fair found the shoe in Hawaii. A picture of it was posted on the film's Facebook page, asking for help translating the handwriting on it.

So far, he said, the team is looking at six stories, three of which involve items already traced to their owners.

"Our film is about 3 countries, 2 continents, separated by the great vastness of the Pacific Ocean coming together to share in the memories, mourn the losses and find great joy in the reuniting of something once thought to be lost forever but has now been found," a description of the project, on the Facebook page, says.

Additional filming is planned for North America this spring and Japan this summer. The filmmakers have been raising money, to help with costs.

Choi hopes to have the documentary released by the third anniversary of the disaster.

___

Online: http://www.lostandfoundthefilm.ca/the-film-2

To watch the trailer: http://www.hotdocs.ca/docignite/project/lost_found

http://www.facebook.com/lostandfoundthefilm

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  • This photo taken Sunday April 7, 2013 and provided by the Del Norte Triplicate shows a 20-foot fishing boat that washed up in Crescent City, Calif. (AP Photo/Del Norte Triplicate, Bryant Anderson)

  • A member of the Washington tsunami debris experts team stands on a dock Friday Dec. 21, 2012 that apparently floated from Japan after last year's tsunami and just washed ashore on a Washington beach near Forks Tuesday. (AP Photo/Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife)

  • Members of the Washington tsunami debris experts team inspect a dock Friday Dec. 21, 2012 that apparently floated from Japan after last year's tsunami and just washed ashore on a Washington beach near Forks Tuesday. (AP Photo/National Park Service)

  • In this file photo from Wednesday, June 6, 2012, a man looks at a 70-foot-long dock with Japanese lettering that washed ashore on Agate Beach in Newport, Ore. The West Coast is anticipating more debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami to wash ashore this winter. Scientists expect the bulk of the tsunami debris to end up in the Pacific Northwest. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, Joshua Marvit, of the State of Hawaii Dept. of Health, tests a 16-foot skiff for radiation after the vessel was salvaged by the crew of the F/V Zephyr approximately 800 miles north of Honolulu, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. The skiff was confirmed to have been debris from the 2011 Japan Tsunami by the Japanese Consulate, after they contacted the owner, through the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and confirmed that they did not seek its return. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler, U.S. Coast Guard / AP)

  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, Joshua Marvit, of the State of Hawaii Dept. of Health, tests a 16-foot skiff for radiation after the vessel was salvaged by the crew of the F/V Zephyr approximately 800 miles north of Honolulu, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. The skiff was confirmed to have been debris from the 2011 Japan Tsunami by the Japanese Consulate, after they contacted the owner, through the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and confirmed that they did not seek its return. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler, U.S. Coast Guard / AP)

  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, Joshua Marvit, of the State of Hawaii Dept. of Health, tests a 16-foot skiff for radiation after the vessel was salvaged by the crew of the F/V Zephyr approximately 800 miles north of Honolulu, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. The skiff was confirmed to have been debris from the 2011 Japan Tsunami by the Japanese Consulate, after they contacted the owner, through the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and confirmed that they did not seek its return. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler, U.S. Coast Guard / AP)

  • In this photo taken June 20, 2012 and provided courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Alaska student Derek Chamberlin stands atop a large ship's mooring buoy, found by NOAA marine debris scientists at Whale Bay, North Cape on Baranof Island during a recent survey of southeast Alaska beaches for marine debris. (AP Photo/NOAA, Jacek Maselko)

  • This image provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a 20-foot, open boat found beached Friday June 15, 2012 on Washington's Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park festooned with hundreds of what state Fish and Wildlife officials said are gooseneck barnacles. (AP Photo/NOAA)

  • A piece of debris is washed up on a beach in Ocean Shores, Wash., on Monday, June 18, 2012. While it is unknown if this particular item is from the tsunami, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Monday a state plan to address tsunami debris that reaches the state's coast from Japan but stressed that federal help is needed.. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

  • This photo taken June 18, 2012 and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a black buoy at a beach on the south side of Noyes Island, east of Cape Addington where scientists have found it and others on a recent survey of southeast Alaska shorelines. (AP Photo/NOAA)

  • This photo taken Wednesday, June 6, 2012 and supplied by the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, shows a large dock that washed ashore early Tuesday on Agate Beach, a mile north of Newport, Ore. The nearly 70-foot-long dock was torn loose from a fishing port in northern Japan by last year's tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, a Japanese Consulate official said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation)

  • In this photo taken by Canadian Peter Mark in the end of April, 2012, and released on Wednesday, May 2, a Harley-Davidson motorbike lies on a beach in Graham Island, western Canada. Japanese media say the motorcycle lost in last year's tsunami washed up on the island about 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) away. The rusted bike was originally found by Mark in a large white container where its owner, Ikuo Yokoyama, had kept it. The container was later washed away, leaving the motorbike half-buried in the sand. Yokoyama, who lost three members of his family in the March 11, 2011, tsunami, was located through the license plate number, Fuji TV reported Wednesday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, Peter Mark)

  • In a photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard the unmanned Japanese fishing vessel Ryou-un Maru dirfts northwest in the Gulf of Alaska approximately 164 miles southwest of Baranof Island Wednesday April 4, 2012. The vessel has been adrift since it was launched by the tsunami caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck Japan last year. The Coast Guard is monitoring the vessel, which is currently considered a hazard to navigation. (AP Photo/Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis, U.S. Coast Guard)

  • In this April 21, 2012 photo released by The Baxters via Kyodo News, David and Yumi Baxter hold a soccer ball and a volleyball which David found, at their house in the suburbs of Anchorage, Alaska. Kyodo News agency says the teenage owner of the soccer ball that apparently floated across the Pacific Ocean after last year's tsunami is surprised and thankful the ball - which had his name written on it - was found in Alaska. (AP Photo/The Baxters via Kyodo News)

  • Japanese Float Tsunami Debris

    This May 28, 2012 photo provided by Chris Pallister shows a Japanese float is collected on the shore of Montague Island near Seward, Alaska. More than a year after a tsunami devastated Japan, killing thousands of people and washing millions of tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, neither the U.S. government nor some West Coast states have a clear plan for how to clean up the rubble that floats to American shores. (AP Photo/Chris Pallister)

  • Peter Clarkson

    In this April, 17, 2012, photo, artist Peter Clarkson poses with a portion of a totem pole that he has been building in Tofino, British Columbia. Clarkson made the pole with what he believes are tsunami-related Japanese floats, barrels and Styrofoam. While yet to be raised, the totem links Japan, First Nations and non-First Nations cultures and raises awareness about the ongoing problem of ocean garbage, said Clarkson. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

  • In this Dec. 20, 2011 photo provided by Dave Kubiak, Alexus Kwachka holds a yellow float in Kodiak, Alaska. The float, along with 6 others, have been identified as coming from oyster farms in Japan after the tsunami. (AP Photo/ Dave Kubiak)

  • Japanese Float Tsunami Debris

    In this June 6, 2012 photo provided by Chris Pallister, debris is strewn across the shore of Montague Island near Seward, Alaska. More than a year after a tsunami devastated Japan, killing thousands of people and washing millions of tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, neither the U.S. government nor some West Coast states have a clear plan for how to clean up the rubble that floats to American shores. (AP Photo/Chris Pallister)

  • Japanese Float Tsunami Debris

    In this June 6, 2012 photo provided by Ryan Pallister, Patrick Chandler removes tsunami debris on Montague Island near Seward, Alaska. More than a year after a tsunami devastated Japan, killing thousands of people and washing millions of tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, neither the U.S. government nor some West Coast states have a clear plan for how to clean up the rubble that floats to American shores. (AP Photo/Gulf of Alaska Keeper, Ryan Pallister)

  • This image provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a 20-foot, open boat found beached Friday June 15, 2012 on Washington's Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park festooned with hundreds of what state Fish and Wildlife officials said are gooseneck barnacles. Officials are warning the public to stay clear, just in case the boat might harbor any invasive plant or animal species. State fish and wildlife personnel will work on that assessment, the spokesman said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has taken information written on the boat and is working with the Japanese consulate in Seattle to determine whether it came from Japan and, if so, whether it might have gone through the 2011 tsunami, Washington state Ecology Department spokesman Curt Hart said. (AP Photo/NOAA)

  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the derelict Japanese fishing vessel RYOU-UN MARU drifts more than 125 miles from Forrester Island in southeast Alaska where it entered U.S. waters March 31, 2012. The vessel has been adrift since it was launched by a tsunami caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck Japan last year. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a plume of smoke rises from a derelict Japanese ship after it was hit by canon fire by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter on Thursday, April 5, 2012, in the Gulf of Alaska. The Coast Guard decided to sink the ship dislodged by last year's tsunami because it was a threat to maritime traffic and could have an environmental impact if it grounded. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen)

  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a plume of smoke rises from the derelict Japanese ship Ryou-Un Maru after it was hit by canon fire by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter on Thursday, April 5, 2012, in the Gulf of Alaska. The Coast Guard decided to sink the ship dislodged by last year's tsunami because it was a threat to maritime traffic and could have an environmental impact if it grounded. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

  • A rust-encrusted Harley-Davidson motorcycle, shown in this undated handout photo by Peter Mark, made buoyant by the sea container in which it was stored, washed up on an island off the coast of British Columbia after it was lost in last year's tsunami in Japan, about 6,400 kilometres away. (AP Photo/CBC-Peter Mark, The Canadian Press)

  • Steve Drane, Ralph Tieleman

    Ralph Tieleman, second left, dealership owner Steve Drane, and onlookers look at Ikuo Yokoyama's 2004 Harley-Davidson Night Train that was swept to sea during the Japanese tsunami, in Langford, British Columbia, Sunday May 6, 2012. The motorcycle is nearing the final stretch in its journey home. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chad Hipolito)

  • In this undated photo taken before March 11, 2011 by its owner Ikuo Yokoyama and distributed by Japan's Kyodo News, a Harley-Davidson sits in the garage in Kakuda, Niyagi Prefecture, northern Japan. Japanese media said Wednesday, May 2, 2012, the motorcycle lost in March 11, 2011 tsunami washed up on a Canadian island about 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) away. (AP Photo/Ikuo Yokoyama via Kyodo News)

  • Massive dock, potentially tsunami debris, hits Oregon Coast

    Scientists from OSU and BLM agents inspect a massive dock with Japanese lettering that washed ashore on Agate Beach on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 a mile north of Newport, Ore. Evidence is mounting that the nearly 70-foot floating dock that washed ashore came from an area of Japan devastated by last year's tsunami. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Thomas Boyd)

  • This photo taken Wednesday, June 6, 2012 and supplied by the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, shows a large dock that washed ashore early Tuesday on Agate Beach, a mile north of Newport, Ore. The nearly 70-foot-long dock was torn loose from a fishing port in northern Japan by last year's tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, a Japanese Consulate official said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation)

  • A man looks at the massive dock with Japanese lettering that washed ashore on Agate Beach Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Newport, Ore. A nearly 70-foot-long dock that floated ashore on an Oregon beach was torn loose from a fishing port in northern Japan by last year's tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, a Japanese Consulate official said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • This photo, taken by the Oregon Park and Recreations Department Thursday, June 7, 2012, shows an exotic pink Japanese acorn barnacle attached to a dock float that washed up on Agate Beach Tuesday near Newport, Ore. State authorities are considering how to dispose of the millions of marine creatures that hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean aboard the dock float torn loose from a Japanese fishing port by the 2011 tsunami so they will not compound the problem of invasive species.(AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, ho)

  • This photo, taken by the Oregon Park and Recreations Department Thursday, June 7, 2012, shows exotic mussels attached to a dock float that washed up on Agate Beach Tuesday near Newport, Ore. State authorities are considering how to dispose of the millions of marine creatures that hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean aboard the dock float torn loose from a Japanese fishing port by the 2011 tsunami so they will not compound the problem of invasive species.(AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, ho)

  • This photo, taken by the Oregon Park and Recreations Department Thursday, June 7, 2012, shows an invasive specie commonly known as "wakame" attached to a dock float that washed up on Agate Beach Tuesday near Newport, Ore. State authorities are considering how to dispose of the millions of marine creatures that hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean aboard the dock float torn loose from a Japanese fishing port by the 2011 tsunami so they will not compound the problem of invasive species.(AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, ho)

  • This photo, taken by the Oregon Park and Recreations Department Thursday, June 7, 2012, shows an exotic mussel attached to a dock float that washed up on Agate Beach Tuesday near Newport, Ore. State authorities are considering how to dispose of the millions of marine creatures that hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean aboard the dock float torn loose from a Japanese fishing port by the 2011 tsunami so they will not compound the problem of invasive species.(AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, ho)

  • This photo taken Wednesday, June 6, 2012 and supplied by the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, shows the metal plaque from a large dock that washed ashore early Tuesday on Agate Beach, a mile north of Newport, Ore. The nearly 70-foot-long dock was torn loose from a fishing port in northern Japan by last year's tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, a Japanese Consulate official said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation)

  • In this Thursday, June 7, 2012 photo proivded by the Oregon Park and Recreations Department, unidentified workers shovel debris from the top of a dock float torn loose from a Japanese fishing port by the 2011 tsunami that washed up Tuesday on Agate Beach near Newport, Ore. Workers with shovels, rakes and other tools first scraped the structure clean, then briefly used low-pressure torches to sterilize the dock that was. (AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation Department)

  • The surf pounds against the massive dock that washed ashore on Agate Beach Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Newport, Ore. A nearly 70-foot-long dock that floated ashore on an Oregon beach was torn loose from a fishing port in northern Japan by last year's tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, a Japanese Consulate official said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • In this Thursday, June 7, 2012 photo proivded by the Oregon Park and Recreations Department, an unidentified worker burns off debris from of a dock float torn loose from a Japanese fishing port by the 2011 tsunami that washed up Tuesday on Agate Beach near Newport, Ore. Workers with shovels, rakes and other tools first scraped the structure clean, then briefly used low-pressure torches to sterilize the dock. (AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation Department)

  • Raw Video: Coast Guard Sinks Ghost Ship

    The U.S. Coast Guard used cannon fire to sink an empty Japanese ship in the Gulf of Alaska. The "ghost ship" drifted across the Pacific after last year's tsunami. (April 6)