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REVIEW: _No More Hibakusha_

Anonymous — October 1983

Film by Martin Duckworth. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada. 16 mm Colour. 55 min.

Reviewed by Brady Thompson

‘Hibakusha’ is a Japanese term given to survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their children. The documentary No More Hibakusha is an investigation not only of the hibakusha themselves, but also of the new pertinence this group of people is gaining in the growing worldwide awareness of the issues and absurdities of nuclear warfare. The hibakusha are deeply committed pacifists. They consider it their duty to make sure no one else is forced to live as they do — haunted by nightmares and shunned by society. The hibakusha firmly believe that if other people are to be spared a similar fate, nuclear weapons must be eliminated.

Director Martin Duckworth’s contemporary approach (no stock war footage or horrific news photos are used) to the special voice the hibakusha have in the protest movement is professional and selective, without being overly slick or judgmental.

No More Hibakusha traces the voyage of three of the 80 hibakusha who attended last year’s U.N. special session on disarmament (UNSSOD II). The people involved are a — distillation (as well as a personification) of the emotions behind the protests and rallies they attend in New York. Duckworth makes a special effort to establish their statement (understandably bitter and occasionally anti. American) as typical of the other hibakusha, motivated by humanitarianism, and having no part of vendettas or extreme political views.

The hibakusha’s personal accounts of “That Day’” are used as a metaphor for the worldwide awakening to the nuclear warfare situation. The film is studded with accounts of “coming to consciousness”. sometimes hours or days later, and the time needed by the survivors to digest the horror that has happened to them. Later, when high school students in New York are confronted (for the first time) by the hibakusha’s descriptions of the bombings, it becomes obvious that they will need time to fully comprehend the horrendous event.

Duckworth stresses the cultural differences that exist between the New Yorkers and the visiting Japanese, but juxtaposes them against the common emotions and sensibilities which bind the two peoples together. As a result, the tone of the film respects the qualities of each culture while emphasising the similarities; the viewer thus becomes more empathetic than sympathetic to the hibukasha, placing the viewer in the shoes of the survivors. As an added note on Duckworth’s skill as a director, he achieves this subtle but powerful technique almost solely through the use of images. His camera contrasts the ultra-urban concentration of New York City with Hiroshima’s well-planned post-war architecture, but at the same time treats the emotional responses of both sides with the same closeups and camera angles. The soundtrack is an interesting mixture of Eastern and Western traditions in music, again underlining’ the tone of the film.

Because No More Hibakusha is a documentary, and as such was made primarily to inform. the film is objective in its chronological presentation of the events leading up to last year’s U. N. session: however. the rendering is so shocking and emotional that the information is almost relegated to a secondary status. In a mere 55 minutes the film deals effectively and powerfully with issues that, for most people, it would take a lifetime to cope with and understand.