White Light/Black Rain

On the 62nd anniversary of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this movie provides a graphic, unflinching look at the reality of nuclear warfare through first-hand accounts of both survivors and American men who carried out the bombing missions. I saw this movie special on HBO last night and I’m still not out of its effect. It is one the most disturbing, sad, horrific yet real, touching and emotional narration.

This film shows in detail the story of one of history’s monumental tragedies very similar to what the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel” does for the holocaust. This book is a narration by Elie Wiesel (one of the few survivors) of the horrors in the Auschwitz concentration camp and his life through it.

This movie draws a similar parallel with a heart-wrenching, compassionate and compelling story told by the 14 survivors who are still living only to re-live this horror in their life over and over again.

140,000 died in Hiroshima, and 70,000 in Nagasaki. The other surviving civilians survived only to die soon after due to the effects from the bombing. That accounted for another 160,000 deaths. 

Even after 62 years, surprisingly, most people know very little about what happened on August 6 and 9, 1945, two days that changed the world. This movie is a comprehensive, straightforward, moving account of the bombings from the point of view of the people who were there. This movie presents riveting personal accounts, it reveals both unimaginable suffering and extraordinary human resilience.

Sakue Shimohira, ten years old at the time, recalls the moment she considered killing herself after losing the last member of her family “I realized there are two kinds of courage – the courage to die and the courage to live”

Other survivors include: Kiyoko Imori, just blocks from the hypocenter, the only survivor of an elementary school of 620 students; Shigeko Sasamori, 13 years old at the time, one of the 25 “Hiroshima Maidens” brought to the U.S. for plastic surgery; Keiji Nakazawa, who lost his father, brother and two sisters, and devoted his life to retelling his story in comic books and animation; Shuntaro Hida, a young military doctor at the time, who began treating survivors immediately after the explosion and continues to provide care for them 60 years later; and Etsuko Nagano, who still can’t forgive herself for convincing her family to come to Nagasaki, just weeks before the bombing.

In addition to physical suffering, survivors were later subjected to intense discrimination from fellow Japanese, and received little or no help from the Japanese government.

The four Americans profiled are: Morris Jeppson, the weapon test officer on the Enola Gay mission to Hiroshima; Lawrence Johnston, a civilian employee of the University of California, which manages Los Alamos; Harold Agnew, a scientific advisor; and Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the navigator who believed the mission would end the war and save lives overall.

With a calm frankness that makes their stories unforgettable, the survivors bear witness to the unfathomable destructive power of nuclear weapons. Their accounts are illustrated with survivor paintings and drawings, historical footage and, photographs, including rare or never before seen material.

This is a phenomenal film by a genial director Steven Okazaki. The most popular argument that aurrounds this whole monumental tragedy is “Did President Harry Truman’s decision to use the bomb shorten the war and save lives, or was it a horrendous war crime that cost the lives of more than 350,000 civilians?”

These arguments, Okazaki believes, have diverted us from looking at the horror of what actually happened, which only increases the risk that it could happen again.

Today, as global tensions rise, all this one again becomes a possibility. The urgency of the warning conveyed in this movie  by a comment from one of the four Americans: “We have opened Pandora’s box, and the genie can’t be stuffed back in the bottle.” strikes a scary possibility in today’s world.

The movie runs on HBO, and there are many shows in the next coming weeks. Click here to see when this movie airs.

As a human being, you owe it to yourself to watch this film. It is so much more than politics and war. It is a matter of life and death.

*Facts and Information from HBO.com


2 Responses

  1. Totally understand where you are coming from when you say ‘you owe it to yourself…’ I had been on a trip to Japan with a large group and visited Hiroshima. If not for the one monument and museum that stands, one finds it hard to believe what devastation had once happened on that very land… The museum visit did deeply disturb me…and each one of us came out silent, heavy and moist eyed. If any of us were to decide, there would be no war…..
    Folks, if you go touring Japan, please owe it to yourself to visit either Hiroshima or Nagasaki… allow yourself to be moved by the visit and do what you can to make sure that would never happen ever again.

  2. Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I can totally understand what you say. When a movie representation/depiction affected me this much and disturbed me , I can only imagine what kind of effect actually being there can have. Must have been an experience of a lifetime.

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