The process of making the film “ Aogiri -Phoenix ” produced by Satomi Nakamura
ーHow I came to be involved in supporting promotion of the filmー
In 1980, the people’s movement known as the “10 Feet Movement” started. It started like this: a Japanese photographer who was visiting the USA happened to find that all the films recorded right after the A- bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were being kept at the National Archives in Washington, DC. He was terribly shocked and thought the Japanese should know of the existence of the films. He decided to call for donations to get the films back to Japan. It was called the “10 Feet Movement ” because one person who donated 3000 yen (approx.. USD 20 at the exchange rate of that time) could buy 10 feet of the film.
At that time the world had been threatened with the cold war by both the USA and the Soviet Union. We were very fearful that they might use atomic bombs.
The grassroots movement was well accepted all over Japan and achieved remarkable success. It was able to buy all the films back to Japan, and moreover they made three documentary films out of them: “Lost Generation”, “Prophecy” and “History”.
And it was then in 1983 that I saw the film, “Lost Generation” at my son’s elementary school, by chance. I was deeply shocked.
Speaking of myself since 1949 I had lived in Nagasaki for 7 years because of my father’s work. Though I was small, I was pained by seeing the ruins caused by the A- bomb and the stories of the victims. But the film showed a reality which was far more terrible than my imagination.
I had also lived in Rome, Italy from 1964 to 1966 because of my father’s job. After my marriage, I lived in the USA from 1968 to 1971 for my husband’s work.
Naturally during those days there were some occasions to talk about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From these conversations I learned that most westerners shared the opinion that the war had ended because of the A-bombs, which saved a lot of lives. I realized that they did not know and had not been taught about the real destructive power of the A-bombs. Since then I always felt I must try to find a way to make known the reality of the destruction caused by the ruthless and merciless A-bombs.
The film “Lost Generation” has a running time of 20 minutes and is suitable for showing even to elementary school children. One morning in 1983 my eyes were glued to an article by Ms. Keiko Tsuji in the Asahi Newspaper. The article was titled, “How about sending the film ‘Lost Generation’ abroad?”! Of course I immediately called her, neglecting to eat breakfast. She was surprised because she did not know the article was in the newspaper on that morning, and mine was the first call she received.
Here I would like to write about an important woman who was actually the catalyst in making the film. Her name is Yoko Kitaura, and at present she is a high school teacher in Hyogo prefecture in Japan. Right after completion of the film “Lost Generation,” she went to the USA without any connections there. She wrote letters to schools and churches, offering to show the film, to introduce Japanese culture and to talk about peace among equal human beings. She was persistent, and fortunately many schools and churches, etc. invited her. At that time (1984) the cost of one film was about $400 . Since she used it many times, the film became worn out. She then asked Keiko Tsuji to raise funds in Japan to buy a new film.
That was what I wanted to do, so it was very natural that I called Keiko. Two weeks later, when I went to the place she mentioned, I found 10 women there. Four of them had already worked as volunteers for the “10 feet movement.” Their knowledge helped us to proceed with our volunteer work. We named our group “ CAN” – Cry Against Nuclear Weapons. This is how our small women’s group started.
Keiko was also a volunteer for the “10 feet movement.” As she continued sending reports to the Asahi newspaper, our small group was also featured twice in the popular column “ Tensei Jin Go”, which was widely read all over Japan. At that time we started to receive donations from all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa.
To our surprise we received about $80,000 from about 700 people in one year (1985).
Of course we immediately sent the first film to Yoko Kitaura. After 2 more people joined our group, we started to send the films with the condition that those who watched the film must write their impression or opinion about it and send their impressions back to us.
While we continued sending films, Keiko was struck down by illness, cancer. She had been the only survivor when all her classmates were killed by the A-bomb because she was absent from school due to a cold. She would often say, “ I was given life, so I must do whatever I can do for peace.” When her condition became serious, we decided to stop collecting donations to concentrate on making a record of how we used the donations in order to tell Keiko about all we had done.
There are many volunteer groups in the world but few of them report how they use donations. We wanted to finish our work properly. We also made a report to send abroad, to the groups where we had sent the films. The result of our work was as follows: We received more than $80,000. With these funds, 200 films were sent to 38 countries. I still have the records in Japanese and in English. At the time we finished the report, Yoko came back from the USA after doing her volunteer work there and in three Central American countries for two years.
Here again I explain a very important matter connected with the film making. There was an American couple who helped Yoko very much in the USA: Professor and Mrs. Lathrop at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Having been impressed and moved by Yoko’s work, they hosted Yoko at their house for a year and a half. Together with Yoko, they came to Japan for the first time in 1985. Having corresponded with Mr. Lathrop many times, I was very happy to meet them in Tokyo. They were very friendly and nice people. While in the hospital, Keiko was very pleased to see the report of our work, and also to meet Yoko and Mr. & Mrs. Lathrop. I still remember Keiko’s gentle and graceful personality.
Yoko had come back to Japan thinking her work in the USA was done. But Mr. & Mrs. Lathrop were so impressed by her work that they insisted on finding a way to continue the efforts Yoko had begun. Yoko is a woman of extraordinary character and vitality, and we thought it would be very difficult to find people like her. But the Lathrops were very optimistic, and finally they persuaded us to open an office to recruit people in Japan. Yoko was in charge of the project and prepared the applications.
The campaign was named NAC (Never Again Campaign), and recruitment began. The application was extensive, including 3 pages probing the applicants’ motivation, and 5 pages dealing with the results of exposure to radiation. Still, 97 people applied, and interviews were carried out at 10 locations in Japan. Mr. and Mrs. Lathrop visited again for the interviews. Eight people were chosen from among them.
Among the eight was Satomi Nakamura, producer of the film “ Aogiri-Phoenix ”. Yoko earnestly briefed and coached them on her experience in the USA. They also received intensive training by reading books on the bombings and also visiting survivors (some of whom had appeared in the film ” Lost Generation”) in order to listen to their stories firsthand.
In this way Satomi met Suzuko Numata, a survivor who became the model for the main character of the film “Aogiri-Phoenix”. Satomi traveled to Alaska, showing the film “Lost Generation” at various places and introducing Japanese culture as well. She spent a year, like Yoko, cultivating mutual understanding between the USA and Japan.
At that time NHK, Hiroshima Central Corporation, made a documentary film about Satomi in Alaska, and broadcast it in Japan. We were able to see her activities in frigid Alaska, and I remember being very much impressed by her efforts.
After coming back from the USA, Satomi continued to stick to her principles and promote interaction with foreigners. For a time she worked as an editor for Hiragana Times. Now she is working for peace as a singer/song writer by holding “Peace Live” events accompanied by a guitarist who served as music producer of the film.
Satomi often visited Hiroshima and deepened her friendship with Suzuko Numata, a Hiroshima survivor. Right after the tsunami in 2011, Suzuko passed away, asking Satomi to pass on her experience of Hiroshima to the next generation and the world. At that point, Satomi made up her mind to produce a film based on Suzuko’s life, which surprised the rest of us very much.
I feel very happy from the bottom of my heart to know that one seed Yoko sowed 35 years ago has been passed on and blossomed like this. I really hope that the film will go overseas just like Keiko’s desire to send “Lost Generation” abroad. This is why I have been supporting promotion of the film.
By the way, NAC continued its activities until 2012, sending 57 people to the USA as peace ambassadors , making over 11,845 presentations, often showing the film “Lost Generation “ to over 371,219 people in 38 states + Washington, DC and 11 countries including Japan, the USA and Canada. During those years, Mr. & Mrs. Lathrop continued to visit Japan whenever we had interviews. Now that Yoko’s work as a high school teacher has become busier and other various problems occurred, NAC has ended its activities after having provided the10th and last ambassadors in 2012.
Mr. & Mrs. Lathrop were delighted to see the film “Aogiri- Phoenix ” and believe it is a significant vehicle for conveying deeper appreciation for the horror of the use of nuclear weapons by their own country.
September 19th 2015