Review: The Last Atomic Bomb

The film is a kindred spirit of The Mushroom Club, Steven Okazaki’s Oscar-nominated documentary about the legacy of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

The Last Atomic Bomb
Photo: Richter Productions, Inc.

Robert Richter’s The Last Atomic Bomb is a kindred spirit of The Mushroom Club, Steven Okazaki’s Oscar-nominated documentary about the legacy of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Richter has gone to Nagasaki and stumbled upon similar faces: hibakushas (atomic attack survivors) like Sakue Shimohira who recall the horrible deaths of their family, friends, and neighbors and who fear that the world will forget their tragedy once they’ve passed on. Though less artful than The Mushroom Club, Richter’s film is more ambitious, pitched as it is as a wake-up call. He follows Shimohira and two young human rights activists around the globe as they attempt to appeal to the leaders of the world, asking them to come to Nagasaki on the 60th anniversary of the bomb. (They make some headway with Parliament, but they meet with a considerable lack of warmth outside the White House, whose security guards ask the woman and her aides to mail her request in through the post office.) This great woman’s travels are intercut with interviews from scholars about nuclear proliferations and the steps we must take in order to move into the post-nuclear age (which includes exposing the obvious hypocrisy of countries like the Unite States, owner of 10,600 nuclear weapons, hectoring other nations about their nuclear ambitions), disturbing American newsreel propaganda from the era, and long-suppressed or relatively unknown opinions from writers and government officials about the questionable necessity of the United States’s use of the bomb during WWII. Ricther understands that there is strength in numbers, but his coup is not just bringing Shimohira together with Holocaust survivor Henri Borlant as if he were building an army of great know-how, but asking the youth of today to also join in the resistance.

Score: 
 Director: Robert Richter  Distributor: Richter Productions, Inc.  Running Time: 92 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2006

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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