White Light / Black Rain

White Light / Black Rain describes the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan by atomic bombs at the end of WWII. HBO documentary with English sub-titles which features interviews with atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Never before seen footage of the blast areas, and unbelievable shots of the wounds of survivors. It ends with title cards indicating that there are now enough nuclear weapons in the world to equal 400,000 Hiroshimas. Also included are interesting paintings and artwork by people who were present on those two days in August of 1945. Filmed 60 years after the U.S. nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this documentary features interviews with atomic bomb survivors, who help shed light on the tragic events. Tens of thousands of people — the overwhelming majority of whom were civilians — perished in the bombings. Veteran filmmaker Steven Okazaki continues his tradition of carefully exploring the human side of difficult social issues. This is by far most fair-minded and even-handed documentary I have seen about the atomic bombing of Japan. The interviews with the survivors who were mostly children at the time were done in a sensitive and thoughtful manner. The film features many powerful interviews with some of the survivors as well as some horrific images. This documentary takes a look at the tragic events that should never be forgotten and more importantly should never be repeated. The film begins with the filmmaker asking several young people out avidly shopping in a Hiroshima mall what they know of the date August 6th 1945. Not one showed any knowledge of what happened. “I’m bad at history,” says one girl gleefully. That is why this film is significant not just for its history but for its present relevance as well. Seventy-five percent of Japan’s present population was born after the events of August 6, 1945. Fourteen Hiroshima survivors interviewed document discrimination that is both public and national. The government refused to acknowledge them and give them benefits of any kind until they formed their own Political Action Committee and shamed the now non-imperialist democratic government into granting them lifetime health benefits. “It is as if they were just waiting for us to die,” says one survivor. Graphic color and black & white footage of the aftermath shows the human picture, while the survivors movingly evoke results of radiation that has encompassed their entire lives. Sakue Shimohira (just ten years old at the time) remembers how she and her sister watched the body of her mother collapse to ashes at their slightest touch. Her despondent sister “jumped in front a train going at full speed,” relates Shimohira. She wanted to do the same, but at the last second jumped away. “I realized,” she says, “There are two kinds of courage — the courage to die and the courage to live.” White Light/Black Rain is a moving testament to all those who had the courage to live. The most heart-wrenching part were past and present footage of the horrifying injuries suffered from both the blast and the post-bomb radioactive fallout. You can’t help but weep at the footage of the aftermath and the testimonials of those who are still alive today. With the state of the world as it is today, this documentary is a startling reminder of what was and a warning of what could be again. This documentary should be required viewing in schools and by the public, so such horror will never happen again. It gets an A+. Documentary 2007 TV-14 85 minutes.


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