“White Light, Black Rain” (2007) Film Review

Boy carrying baby after hiroshima attack.

Taken from the film 'White Light, Black Rain'

White Light, Black Rain (2007)

It appears that yet again, an independent film that I’ve never heard of has struck me straight down to the heart. Through to my bones, all the way down and even enveloping my emotions, I was sucked into this film. It was heart wrenching, but yet hopeful at the same time. It is hopeful in that this won’t ever happen again; should not happen ever again. The destruction that occurred in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima has gone untold until now. I never learned about this in grade school. I never knew the magnitude in this all but too famous bomb. Its effects are far reaching, and are still being felt today by the many survivors.

The surface of this film is largely the pure, raw emotion that is delivered by these survivors and their testimonies. The use of their own art was very effective at giving us the horrible imagery that they have witnessed. Then add onto that the archival footage and you get an-all-too-clear picture at what occurred on those days. It wasn’t even in one specific section of the movie, it kept happening throughout; almost like it was reminding you over and over at what this bomb did. When I learned about this whole fiasco in school, it was taught that the bomb just vaporized people instantly. But this movie reflected clearly that the majority of people suffered in the most inhumane way possible. So many stories stand out to me; the man who killed two people by giving them water; a boy who woke up to a skew of dead bodies all around him; a girl who had to turn away from a women with a headless baby in her arms. It sounded like an obscene horror film. I will not shy away and say that this movie didn’t make me emotional. I can’t say that I cried, but I certainly felt like it. Although the movie was quite sensationalist, I really thought that it was crucial for the film.

Drawing from a survivor who witnessed the nuclear bomb.

Drawing from a survivor who witnessed the nuclear bomb.

Another part of the film that went a bit deeper was the whole argument of whether or not the bomb should have been dropped. The director Okazaki in an interview with The Japan Times said, “(I’m tired of the political debate surrounding the dropping of the atomic bombs.) It was just this one day with no connection to the rest of the war. And the Americans tell it another way, a very defensive way, and they cite their statistics about why it was necessary. But this discussion doesn’t get anywhere; neither side meets the other in any way (The Japan Times). He left this whole argument out, and just told the story. It’s quite interesting because I found myself agreeing with the Japan side of the argument naturally, even though there really was no ‘debate.’ I especially remember thinking cynical thoughts when an American man said (roughly), “I’ve never had a bad dream about this particular event; in fact I don’t think I’ve ever had a nightmare.” First off, that’s completely untrue. Every single person has bad dreams and the fact that he doesn’t feel any emotional connection to it is atrocious. I especially was offended when one of them was smiling as he was discussing his experience as if it was a cheery subject. I’m glad that I walked away from the film feeling this animosity towards the Americans who were involved with the atomic bombs. The film was obviously completely neutral, but the fact that they showed the show about the pilot and Hiroshima victim making amends. Although touching, I didn’t see that same emotion from the other Americans involved with the bomb.

There were a couple of interesting techniques used through the film that I felt were used extremely well. One that stands out immensely was the memorial performance being put on by some artists. Along with a painter who was painting a portrayal of what the bomb looked like, there was a trumpeter playing. It was described in a quote,”sad waning of trumpets [that] enlighten the souls that have passed on and memorializes what they stood for” (IMDB). Another theme that kept coming up was what Japan urban areas looked and felt like. It was a great start to the documentary to show how most young people don’t really know about the two bombs. The shots of the survivors standing in the middle of crowded areas were outstanding to me. It almost portrayed the dichotomy of their lives versus the average lives of the people their today. An amazing thing that I didn’t know until I witnessed this film was how the survivors got treated horribly. Almost like a plague victim, they were shunned away and avoided. Not only did they have to live with their grotesque scars, but they had to live with the shame of not being a part of society ever again. As mentioned before, I very much enjoyed how the use of the survivor’s art was used. It truly represented what it was like in its own way, rather than an artist’s interpretation.

I’m glad that I got to see this movie because of how powerful an impact it has made on me. The whole Japan side of the story has been lost in terms of formal education, and this movie makes up for it. If I wanted to teach anyone about this event, this is the movie that I would have them watch. Not only does it explain everything in a factual neutral way, but the over lying message is: Don’t let this happen again! These survivors have gone through so much pain and turmoil already, let them be the last ones of our time.

Bibliography

Fazio, Giovanni . “Last words on hell from the skies.” The Japan Times. 02 Aug 2007. The Japan Times Ltd. 12 Nov 2008 <http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ff20070802r1.html&gt;.

Jamrite, “Powerful and heart wrenching documentary,.” Internet Movie Database. 08 Aug 2007. IMDb.com, Inc.. 12 Nov 2008 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0911010/&gt;.

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