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Towards a Nuclear-Free World
Thoughts from a Country Hit by Nuclear Bombs - 2013(No.2-1)
I make movies because people forget
By Syunji Iwai, Movie Director
(June 2, 2013, The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper)
Even before the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, test bombings were carried out all over Japan, and large numbers of people died. Starting out from the two areas that were hit by atomic bombs, survivors have passed on the stories of their experiences to people everywhere, which is how we came to hear of what happened. I think the reason that Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become such huge symbols is because of the powerful message people have brought to us while telling these tales.
I don't know if it's because of the kind of person I am, or if it's because I'm a film director, but a day doesn't go by that I don't think about my own death at least once. So for me, August 6th has become the one day in the year that I think most about people who have died. I have read Black Rain by Masaji Ibuse and The Flowers of Summer by Tamiki Hara, who wrote about his experience of living through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. But these were just literary experiences, and for someone like me born after the war, the ceremonies shown on television every summer are something to be watched in a respectful manner.
It is very moving to see the film clips of people who survived and who are trying to convey to other people what happened to them. But I'm not yet ready to take full responsibility for this. It is all I can do to just listen and accept.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake (The March 11 Tohoku Earthquake), I tweeted "I've just been ignoring the disaster, thinking it would go away. I truly regret this for the new generation." In 1986, after the accident in Chernobyl, people throughout Japan were trembling with fear at the thought of nuclear power. Even though I knew of people who were warning us of the dangers, somehow I made light of this and forgot about it.
I think the lesson we should learn from the disaster is not that we should never forget, but should rather be re-construed as "people forget." There are many people who feel nuclear power is dangerous. If you asked people whether they thought atomic bombs would be used today by some country somewhere, many people would say it is hard to believe that such a thing would happen. But I rather believe it is more realistic to think that because there are so many nuclear weapons around, that they probably could get used once or twice. Wouldn't it be better for us to be emotionally prepared for such an eventuality?
The movie "Godzilla" is about a monster that has been irradiated and spouts nuclear radiation when he opens his mouth. He is a creature that turns everywhere he goes into a so-called radiation control zone, like those created after the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Somehow this monster has been turned into our hero.
Many of the creative people of my generation have set their stories in a post apocalyptic future, but they have forgotten the basic message of their premise. Now we must return to the starting point. I believe we must present the case to the world that something as terribly dangerous as nuclear war could happen at any time.
This summer will be the 68th year since the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The nuclear accident in Fukushima two years ago once again forced upon us the frightful reality of atomic destruction. How can we communicate the tragedy of this terrible experience? How should we act as we face the future? We have asked these questions of contemporary leaders in various fields.
Shunji Iwai,a movie directir, was born in 1963 in Sendai, a city hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake. He is known for directing such films as Love Letter, Friends after 3/11 and Vampire. He wrote the lyrics to the song "Hana wa saku (Flowers Bloom)," the song NHK television commissioned to support recovery in the areas affected by the disaster.
(This was compiled through an interview by Tsukasa Kimura.)