Hiroshima (1953, Hideo Sekigawa)Historians/History
tags: film, Hiroshima, Japan, atomic bomb, World War 2
Hideo Sekigawa's 1953 feature film Hiroshima is difficult to view in its entirety, partly due to the fact that the Communist Sekigawa's political views were out of favor in the context of the postwar relationship between Japan and the United States. This clip was brought to HNN's attention by Erik Loomis at the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog. Loomis writes:
This is an amazing film, one of the best political films I have ever seen. It is extremely angry. And it directly blames the United States for launching a horror on the world for which there is no excuse. And yet it is almost unknown. It was briefly streaming on a service at one point–maybe Filmstruck back before it closed and I just happened on it and watched with amazement. But it wasn’t on there long. It’s not available on DVD in the US though it is in Britain. But because everything is stupid, America has its own system and foreign DVDs won’t work on our players. On IMDB, this film has a whopping…176 ratings, one of which is mine. It was basically blacklisted after its release, which was outside the Japanese studio system, because of its politics at a time when Japan was just moving to get out from under U.S. occupation. It really deserves a wider showing.
For further reading on the politics of postwar Japanese film and Sekigawa, see Kazu Watanabe's essay for the Criterion Collection's website:
Hiroshima points its finger in multiple directions, but more than assigning blame to any one cause or agent of war, the film offered a way for those affected by the bomb to show Japan—and the rest of the world—what they suffered. According to the film’s promotional material, up to 90,000 Hiroshima residents, some of whom were hibakusha, and local labor union members were used as extras in the film’s epic scenes of mass destruction. City officials and local businesses lent full support to the production, and the Hiroshima-born lead actress, Yumeji Tsukioka, appealed to the vice president of Shochiku, with whom she was under contract, to let her act in the film for free. According to researchers Mick Broderick and Junko Hatori, early reports about Hiroshima focused on its collaborative nature and repeatedly contrasted it to Shindo’s film. “The extras’ participation was the most enthusiastic ever seen in a Japanese film,” reported the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s major newspapers. Hiroshima was expected to “bring about a commotion” to overseas markets, unlike Shindo’s movie, which the newspaper derided as a “sight-seeing film.”
Despite growing public anticipation, Hiroshima’s reception was mixed. Like Children of Hiroshima, the film had been due to premiere on an anniversary of the bombing. But after Shochiku allegedly insisted that the content was too “anti-American” and “cruel” and demanded that several scenes be cut, the release was stalled, and all five major studios reportedly ended up refusing to distribute it. The JTU decided to self-distribute rather than cater to studio demands, and while many praised the film for its realism, the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture considered it too “anti-American” to show to schoolchildren. Hiroshima was finally distributed in the U.S. two years later in an edited version, giving many American audiences their first opportunity to see images of the effects of the bomb. And in 1959, the film gained even more visibility in the West when Alain Resnais used selected scenes for his masterpiece Hiroshima mon amour, which starred Hiroshima’s lead actor, Eiji Okada.
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