The Ultimate Wish: Ending the Nuclear Age 2012
Distributed by New Day Films, 190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154 or 845-774-7051
Produced by Robert Richter and Kathleen Sullivan
Directed by Robert Richter and Kathleen Sullivan
DVD , color, 88 min.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power, Anti-nuclear Movement, Fukushima
Date Entered: 06/05/2013Reviewed by Andrew Jenks, California State University, Long Beach
This documentary is an instance of preaching to the choir. For those who are adamantly opposed to nuclear power, the documentary will no doubt present a compelling case. But the film’s one sided presentation, its refusal to engage arguments that do not support the emotional and impassioned condemnation of nuclear power in all its forms – civilian and military – makes the film less effective.
The short documentary begins with images from the Fukushima disaster and comments from a victim. It then takes the viewer back to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus connecting the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Fukushima power plant disaster. The rest of the film moves back and forth between the story of a bomb victim – who travels to England and the United States to tell her tale of suffering to school children – and the victim of the Fukushima tragedy. Toward the end of the film the bomb survivor encounters the son of Holocaust victims in France, setting the stage for an emotional scene that ties together the main theme of the documentary: the supposed link between the dropping of the atomic bombs, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster triggered by the Tsunami, and the suffering of holocaust victims.
The documentary contains little technical, medical, or scientific information. Instead, it relies primarily on emotions and pathos, highlighting the suffering of victims to construct an angry condemnation of nuclear power – and to launch a plea to terminate use of the technology in any form. The film provides some historical explanation for the dropping of the bombs but without a thorough examination of the many possible reasons for Truman’s decision to do so. The film cites one authority—not an historian—who argues that the bombs were dropped for reasons other than ending the war, since the Japanese were already near surrendering before the bombs were dropped. That may be true, but then what was the reason for their use?
More problematic is the film’s attempt to draw connections between the use of atomic weapons in Japan in 1945 and the 2011 Fukushima accident. The links between the two, beyond the fact that both involved the technology of splitting the atom, seem tenuous at best. The Fukushima disaster was an unintended consequence of improper technological management; the dropping of the bombs was a deliberate act of hostility during war. Linking the suffering of the Japanese bomb victim to the suffering of holocaust victims also seems more propagandistic than historically accurate. It is a cheap and unfair ploy to mobilize anger and shock against something by connecting that thing to the holocaust – in part because it also politicizes the suffering of the holocaust victims. Doing so almost always obscures much more than it reveals, and this documentary is, unfortunately, no exception.
While the film’s overall method of argumentation is unconvincing, it does provide interesting and moving stories from bomb and Fukushima survivors, especially regarding the discrimination and suffering they have endured. It also presents interesting information about the American occupation of Japan. The American occupiers heavily censored the Japanese press in the late 1940s and 1950s, preventing anything critical of the U.S. decision to drop the bombs from being published in the Japanese press. Again, however, the filmmakers present dubious conclusions, suggesting that the enforced silence about Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan opened the door to the nuclear age, and somehow to the horrors of Fukushima. This seems like a questionable claim. First, there were many public critics of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1960s and beyond – inside and outside of Japan. Second, nuclear power was developed assiduously outside of Japan in the Soviet Union, France, and elsewhere. Silence about Hiroshima and Nagasaki had nothing to do with the dawning of the age of nuclear power in those countries. In short, the polemical nature of the documentary, its goal of mobilizing people against nuclear power, detracts from the film's objectivity and believability.