Message From Hiroshima (2015) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

First time writer/director Masaaki Tanabe recreates the place where he lived as a boy in Hiroshima as part of his presentation of the effects on his neighbourhood of being hit by the Hiroshima blast. Disturbing images are kept to a bare minimum, though the horrific cannot be entirely avoided. But, for the most part, this account breathes life into the memories of a culture that died the instant the Atomic Age was born. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Of note, the date I saw this film was 06 August 2015, precisely seventy years after Hiroshima’s most fateful day. That added to the poignancy of the watching experience.

Message From Hiroshima (2015) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).
Message From Hiroshima (2015) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

‘Message From Hiroshima’ is a documentary about the ill-fated city. It was written and directed by Masaaki Tanabe, but it is not the documentary that might be expected. There are painful stories and painful images, but Tanabe keeps them to the bare minimum that is almost required. Instead, he tells the viewer about culture of his people in the years before the bombing, a culture that was literally erased from the Earth in a small fraction of a second. However, his is not a message of anger and indignation at the fate of the people whom he loved and lost. It is just the opposite. He and other eyewitnesses tell us that we must never let our hatreds grow so great that anyone else must go through what his people suffered.

Through sub-titled eyewitness accounts, narration in English by George Takei, paintings of the indescribable by the victims and animated computer model of his neighbourhood, Tanabe shows us what life was like in Hiroshima before the fateful day. He uses interviews to re-create the texture of life in his neighbourhood. He tells us what their food was like and about two movie theatres in his neighbourhood. One theatre showed Japanese films, the other showed foreign films such as ‘City Lights’ and ‘King Kong’. We also see the Industrial Promotion Hall, its famous dome destroyed down to its steel framework.

Much of the history is poignant. There are stories of children left by the bomb with little capability to feed themselves. Sadly, they waited hoping for the arrival of parents who could not appear since they were not just dead but they were no longer existing in any form. There are stories of places that are very different today than they would have been. The neighbourhood he shows us is now the Peace Memorial Park where the Motoyasu and Honkawa rivers converge. It is a reminder of human beings who were so dreadfully lost in one bright flash.

The enemy in this film is not the Americans. Nor is it the Japanese government who called for and prosecuted the war. There is no mention about atrocities that the Japanese themselves committed. But the message as presented in the testimonials is that war is immoral and certainly it should never get to the extremes that both the Americans and the Japanese fell to in World War II and the conflicts that surrounded them.

Though it is limited by its 52-minute run time, this film is a strong experience. I rate ‘Message From Hiroshima’ +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. One quibble: the film repeatedly refers to the Hiroshima bomb as being ‘the first Atomic Bomb in history’, this discounts the device detonated at the Trinity test in New Mexico.

Mark R. Leeper

(c) Mark R. Leeper 2015

One thought on “Message From Hiroshima (2015) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

  • Whilst the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan was doubtless a tragedy for those living in those cities so was being bombed by the Germans during the Blitz in 1940/1 in the UK or for those unfortunates who were POWs of the Japanese. The nuclear bombs brought the war to an end. An estimated 1 million Allied military would have died capturing Japan and probably several million Japanese civilians as well as military. The Japanese were going to throw in the civilian popup;at ion including school children into the fight so the bombs probably saved many Japanese lives never mind Allied ones. I also suspect no one really knew what the effects of the Atom bombs would be. The plans for Operation Olympic, the proposed invasion of Japan, intended to drop a nuclear bomb at either end of the landing beaches to discourage Japanese counter attacks.


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