Films about the atomic bomb
As we approach the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it’s crucial that we understand the catastrophic dangers we face as a planet, and why countries urgently need to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
For those who learn best through the cinematic lens, I’ve compiled a list of films that explore these themes in detail.
Please add your favourite picks to the list in the comments below!
White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2007)
Dir: Steve Okazaki
Released on the 62nd anniversary of the first atomic bombing, this film features interviews with fourteen Japanese survivors and four Americans involved in the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was considered for best documentary feature at the 80th Academy Awards, and widely hailed as a powerful account of the human cost of nuclear war.
Countdown to Zero (2010)
Dir: Lucy Walker
In the midst of a world-wide pandemic and increasing global insecurity, this stunning 2010 documentary is an urgent call to abolish nuclear weapons. It traces the history of the atomic bomb, leading up to the present day, as we live on the edge of nuclear catastrophe.
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Black Rain/Kuroi Ame (1989)
Dir: Shohei Imamura
Based on the novel of the same name by Ibuse Masuji, Black Rain is the story of a family living in the aftermath of the atomic bomb. “Black Rain” refers to the rain that fell over Hiroshima after the nuclear bombing, which left dark stains on clothing. This rain contained radioactive materials and its effects continue to plague survivors to this day.
Barefoot Gen (1986)
Dir: Mamoru Shinzaki
Barefoot Gen is the story of two brothers Gen and Ryuta, as they struggle in the aftermath of WWII in Hiroshima. They scavenge for food and scrap metal in their devastated city, while fighting to save their mother who is suffering from radiation sickness. Originally featured as a manga series by Keiji Nakazawa.
Dir: Renzo Kinoshita
A horrific 8-minute animated short recalling the morning of August 6th, 1945 in Hiroshima. The story traces the lives of ordinary citizens as they watch the planes cross over the city, and the atomic bomb is detonated at 8:15 am. Though considered obscure, this film is shown in Japanese schools as a reminder of the perils of war.
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
Dir: Alain Resnais
Considered by critics to be one of the greatest movies of all time, this film is a love story/conversation between a French woman and a Japanese man who are grappling with the memory and trauma of past wars. It includes harrowing newsreel and documentary footage of Hiroshima past and present, and explores the meaning of war, the pain of both remembering and forgetting.
If You Love This Planet (1982)
Dir: Terre Nash
This Canadian Oscar-winning short film describes the dangers posed by nuclear weapons the scientific and medical consequences of ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect, deforestation, toxic chemical pollution, species extinction, food contamination, and nuclear waste. It inspired Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s World Peace Tour to reduce nuclear arms and received praise from activist Naomi Klein and the legendary Meryl Streep.
Our Hiroshima (1995)
Dir: Anton Wagner
A documentary featuring the Hiroshima survivor and nuclear weapons abolition activist Setsuko Thurlow and the peace activists Ursula Franklin and Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares. This film highlights Canada’s rarely discussed role in the development of the atomic bomb, and its continued contributions to the present-day nuclear arms race.