Xavierpop Does @Shinsedai_Fest – Louis Reviews ‘Hiroshima Nagaski Download’
At the end of WWII, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Within a week, the Japanese forces surrendered unconditionally and the Americans began occupation of the Island Nation. 64 years later, 2 former high school friends, filmmaker Shinpei Takeda and producer Eiji Wakamatsu set out on a journey from Vancouver in Canada to Mexico with Takeda collecting video of the survivors stories. Along the way, they also try and come to terms with what happened and find their identities as Japanese. And thus Hiroshima Nagaski Download was born.
The hibakusha, or “explosion-affected people”, living in the United States not only had the difficulty of having survived the bombing, but also having to live in the nation that was there enemy. While some immigrated to the United States at the end of the war, some were already Americans sent to Japan to study. One can imagine the hardship of being thrust into a culture, not knowing the language well and having the double burden of coming from a country that is at war with the one you find yourself in.
Takeda’s story is twofold. He is trying to relate his personal journey of not only finding the hibakusha, but also trying to get them to speak about their experiences. In trying to relate to the audience just what he has encountered along the way, part of the interviews with the hibakusha are shown periodically throughout the film. As the two travel down the west coast, both are deeply and profoundly disturbed by the experience, but feel very strongly that to have these stories recorded is the most important thing they can do. The aging population of hibakusha, coupled with the associated health issues from radiation exposure means there is a limited amount of time with which this can be done.
The problem with the film, though, is because Takeda is trying to tell the story of the hibakusha and his personal one, he must carefully balance these two and doesn’t quite do it. Without a clear explanation of his motivation, (which is not the recording, but to tell the tale of the trip itself), in parts he ends up having meandering conversations that go nowhere. Conversely, the clarity and force with which the hibakusha speak make the conversations between Takeda and Wakamatsu seem a wasted opportunity. He wisely chooses to avoid the issue of how the war started, or condemn the US for the dropping of the bombs, but rather lets the stories of the misery and torment of what was experienced speak for itself.
The film would have been better served focusing completely on the hibakusha with as much background information as possible giving the context of the stories. While there is some information online, there seems not to be the type and scope of information one would find around holocaust survivors of Nazi Germany. One wonders what happened to the videos shot by Takeda, as they are a valuable recourse. While emotionally difficult for both viewer and hibakusha, these stories should be seen and heard.