In this age where new countries jockey to become the newest member of the league of nuclear nations and talk of preemptive nuclear strikes and the Muslim bomb and the Jewish bomb and dirty bombs are talking head fodder on the evening news. Military consultants in every American newsroom talk about the “survivability” of an attack on the U.S. by a “rogue state” and a new generation of Japanese politicians entertain thoughts of a nuclear Japan and recent history, the horrific reality of nuclear warfare are falling on deaf ears.
It’s been a quarter of a century since Bay Area documentarian Steven Okazaki made Survivors, about the men and women who were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 62 years ago this month and lived to tell about it. And, it’s been 16 years since he won a documentary short subject Academy Award for Days of Waiting: The Life & Art of Estelle Ishigo.
The Berkeley-based filmmaker’s films have been shown at Sundance and has been showered with acclaim few ever receive. His body of work speaks for itself. So why did he choose to remake/reshoot/redo a documentary on the hibakusha?
Journalist Katie Halper asked that very question of Okazaki in an interview printed July 31 in The Huffington Report. Here’s his reply:
It was mostly me, I didn’t have the skills, the emotional maturity to do the film, and I was kind of intimidated by the subject and the politeness and niceness of the subjects. I didn’t press them. I think usually I tried to absorb the mood of the character but I think I was really intimidated by the subject and didn’t ask the hard questions. And it took me a long time to get comfortable and get curious enough to ask the questions I wanted to ask. I think people have a lot of discomfort with the subject, with you terrible physical injuries or emotional strains. And you transfer a lot of your own discomfort if you’re talking to someone who has terrible physical scars and is going through a lot. Or, on the other hand, people have a kind of reverence for survivors sand treat them almost as if they’re children.
White Light/ Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is thoughtful, moving and frighteningly relevant documentary which sheds light on the history and the present day legacy of the use of the atomic bomb. The film gives voice to the silenced survivors of the bomb while at the same time including the reflections and memories of the Americans who carried out the bombing. After seeing the premier of the HBO documentary at the Asia society in New York City, I spoke to director Steven Okazaki about unfortunate timelessness of this story of death, destruction and war. White Light / Black Rain premieres on HBO on August 6th at 7:30p.m., the 62nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
Here’s a chilling slideshow of art created by survivors of the two nuclear attacks that outstrips most any pro-nuclear deterrent talking point.
White Light/ Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be aired in several timeslot this month: