Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Human Face of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

We slipped out the other day for the Circle Cinema's afternoon screening of the documentary White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Too bad were were one of the few to see the film because it's an important work, depressing in its details but also a testament to the endurance of the human spirit.

The film includes interviews with 14 survivors of the bombings and allows them to tell their stories. Not surprisingly, all of them know exactly where they were when their lives changed forever on August 6 and 9, 1945. The stories are filled with death and horrible injuries, mostly burns and, over time, radiation sickness, which the Japanese knew nothing about. But the stories are also uplifting in many ways because the survivors endured, despite all the misery and death around them.

Most Americans, we suspect, know little about the bombings and their aftermath. In fact, the film shows that most Japanese today know very little about the bombings, despite the fact that the bombs killed many thousands of Japanese and largely destroyed two major cities. But that was a long time ago, it seems, and no one really wants to recall the destruction caused by these atomic bombs.

This film, like John Hersey's famous 1946 book, Hiroshima, looks at the bombings from the victims' perspectives. Yet filmmaker Steven Okazaki, like Hersey, avoids casting blame on Americans. In the film, Okazaki lets several Americans involved in the bombings explain their role. Mostly, they justify the bombings as the fastest way to end the war, which it was. But it was indisputably brutal as well.

Here's more on the film, courtesy of the Circle Cinema's website:

An extraordinary new film by Academy Award- winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki, puts a human face on what we are really talking about. Even after 60 years, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to inspire argument, denial and myth. Surprisingly, most people know nothing or very little about what happened on August 6 and 9, 1945, two days that changed the world. This is a comprehensive, straightforward, moving account of the bombings from the point of view of the people who were there.

White Light/Black Rain ends today at the Circle, but the film has ties to HBO and is likely to show up on the small screen in the coming months. We recommend it not because it's pleasant viewing, but because it is a powerful reminder of the lingering consequences of war.