Thu 31 Dec 2009
When I visited Hiroshima less than two months ago I thought that I knew quite a lot about the the events at the end of the second world war in the Pacific including the atomic bombs that were dropped upon Japan in order to reach a faster end of the war. Nothing was however comparable with seeing the destruction of Hiroshima at first hand in the Peace Museum, as well as the impressing memorial monuments in the Hiroshima Peace Park. Now comes this documentary by American-born Steven Okazaki which complements the images and the information that I acquired during my visit in Japan.
Let me say that it’s one of the best historical and investigative documentaries that I have seen in years, if not the best. There are many direct witnesses that present the two sides of the event – the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombardments in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who were most of them kids in 1945 and who carried for the rest of their lives the physical pain in their flesh and the psychological traumas in their souls, and the American crewmen who seem to have gained awareness about the dimensions of the event they participated in, but show almost no trace of guilt or remorse for their actions. Some of the pictures taken immediately after the bombing which some of them – it is said in the film – are being seen for the first time in public are shocking and succeed to convey the intensity and dimensions of the destruction and sufferings that were inflicted on the civilian population of the two bombed cities.
Yet, it is the opening sequence that impressed me the most. It is filmed today, in some big city of Japan. Young Japanese folks in the teens or twenties are asked ‘what historical event happened on August 6, 1945′. None of them knows the answer! This is by the way a little bit surprising for me as I have seen in the museum and park in Hiroshima last November many groups of school or college age students visiting the place. It may be that the policy changed lately, it may be that the attitude of the Japanese people – similarly to the Jewish Israelis relation to the Holocaust survivors – went through an evolution from denial to indifference and only lately to admission and active support for the survivors. I do not know. Such films as ‘White light, Black Rain’ can help however bring down completely the walls of silence that still exist.