Filmmaker Steven Okazaki (an Oscar winner for “Days of Waiting”) recalls the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in this solemn documentary. The film presents the “hibakusha” (people exposed to the bomb), who offer first-person accounts of life in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during wartime (ironically, neither city was bombed before the atomic weapons were dropped) while detailing the horrors in surviving the atomic destruction.
Perhaps even more amazing than living through an atomic blast was the tumultuous recovery the survivors experienced afterwards. Some carry physical scars that required extensive surgery, all carry some degree emotional scarring, and some of the survivors are bold enough to recount the discrimination that the hibakusha experienced in Japan for years after the war.
The film also includes interviews with several surviving members of the American military flights that carried out the bombings – none of them were prepared for the magnitude of what they coordinated.
Wisely, Okazaki avoids demonizing the Americans or making Japan into a victim of sadistic wartime carnage (the film repeatedly reminds the viewer which country provoked the Pacific aspect of World War II). The resulting production is intelligent, often poignant, and valuable for offering an oral history by those who witnessed the most traumatic events of the 20th century.
Perhaps the most remarkable sequence here involves Japanese youth: many teenagers, when queried by Okazaki on what occurred on August 6, 1945, are unable to identify the Hiroshima bombing (one teen guesses there was an earthquake). Perhaps this film comes at the right time, thus ensuring future generations recall the gravity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.