From a Survivor of Nagasaki, Insight on the Nuclear Future

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As Iraq devolves into chaos, and North Korea strives to join the nuclear nations, the exhortations of “The Last Atomic Bomb” ring with an uncomfortable currency. Directed by the veteran documentarian Robert Richter, the movie is an unvarnished emotional plea for nuclear disarmament voiced primarily by Sakue Shimohira, a survivor of Nagasaki.

Just 10 when a plutonium bomb exploded over that city on Aug. 9, 1945, Ms. Shimohira now devotes herself to disseminating her harrowing story to world leaders and schoolchildren alike.

A tiny, tireless woman reinforced by tragedy, she epitomizes the persuasive power of oral history, and the film uses her to frame a remarkable collection of declassified films and photographs. As a 1946 Mass in a bombed-out Nagasaki cathedral gives way to a United States Navy propaganda film, and horrific images of blast and radiation victims dissolve into a victory newsreel filled with cheering crowds, it’s impossible to remain detached. The film is an emotional sledgehammer but not a diatribe; its images speak for themselves.

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