Cinema Libre // 2010 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // January 14th, 2012
The true story of nuclear weapons.
Today, it seems inconceivable that the world could be destroyed in the blink of an eye, but it wasn't that long ago that the potential for mutually assured destruction was very real and very scary. I'm not quite old enough to remember the really dark days, but the Cold War was still good and icy while I was growing up. The United States had their nuclear weaponry pointed directly at the Soviet Union, and vice versa. The Cold War may be over now, but the weapons haven't moved. Between the US and the nations of the former Soviet Union, there are thousands of these death devices still active and on a hair trigger. That doesn't count the warheads developed by other nations over the years to boost their own power, in spite of non-proliferation treaties that have been signed between countries and within the United Nation.
What got us to this point, where we could so easily lose everything at the twitchy hand of unstable leaders? The history of this question is well explored in The Forgotten Bomb, an informed and engrossing documentary directed by Stuart Overbey. As educational as the information is, this is just as much the personal journey of producer and narrator Bud Ryan, a resident of New Mexico who claims to have known little beyond the conventional education on nuclear weapons he received in school. Then, in 1991, he married a Japanese woman who took him to her home country and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, where his eyes were opened to another side of the story, that of the victims of the assaults on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Taking us from Japan to New Mexico, where the bomb was developed, and plenty of points in between, Ryan interviews survivors, known as Hibakusha, scientists involved in the weapon's construction, and political figures, all of whom tell their sides of the tale. Most interesting is the discussion with former Secretary of State George Shultz, part of Ronald Regan's cabinet when the President went to Iceland for his non-proliferation summit with Mikhail Gorbachev. In general, Shultz is no peach, but this meeting was deeply unpopular at the time and his vocal support of that, as well as his continued urgings for disarmament in the media, is admirable. From this side of the pond, his is the most intelligent and informed opinion, as opposed to a military scientist who, when faced with real evidence of the destruction caused by his weapons, angrily and flippantly says, "Remember Pearl Harbor," which is exactly the kind disregard for human suffering The Forgotten Bomb is trying to combat.
Whether one is convinced of what Overbey and Ryan talk about will depend on openness to information that may go against what was taught in school. Comparing what gets displayed on the topic in American museums to those in Japan shows in no uncertain terms the whitewashing of history that has happened in this country, and the perpetuation of myths about the effects of the bombs in ending the war with Japan and the possession of such weaponry as a deterrent to violence. In the interviews, explanatory charts, and animations, the filmmakers describe how the danger, cost, and environmental damage that these weapons cause negate nearly all their perceived positives. They tell their story fantastically, with a good mix of facts and heart; The Forgotten Bomb is a very solid documentary that works both to entertain and educate.
The disc for The Forgotten Bomb comes to us from Cinema Libre in a decent package. The image is good for what it is, with a generally clear image with nothing very special about it, but it works for what it is. The sound is about equal, clean but unspectacular. For extras, we get a series of extended interviews from some of the people we heard from in the film, which are all valuable, and a couple of short deleted pieces that probably should have been included in the documentary.
This fabulous documentary is a must-see film that sheds light on the often untold story of the survivors of two of the most devastating attacks ever perpetrated against a people and the ongoing ripples that emerged from those horrors. The interviews are great, the honesty is impressive, and the film is completely engaging. Great stuff; highly recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Interviews
* Official Site
* Hiroshima Peace Memorial