The city’s residents gather in the Peace Park on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing.
This year was the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, but the early morning ceremony held on the 6th of August was perhaps more newsworthy than those in recent years. The US ambassador to Japan and the Secretary-General of the UN attended for the first time and the movement to eliminate nuclear weapons has recently gained more mainstream acceptance. However, as a long term resident of Hiroshima, I wanted to focus less on the dignitaries attending and the various monuments in the Peace Park and more on how the average Japanese marked the occasion.
I wanted to put something together that had its basis in a documentary style but that had an almost scripted feel to the editing. That had a rhythm and balance to the way it was put together so that the viewer is drawn in by the flow of the piece, rather than an overriding narrative or obvious point of view. Of course it was people doing their own thing as individuals or in groups, with me having no control whatsoever of their movements, nor making any attempt to intervene, so the basic material was just what I could find and observe in a few hours with one Canon 5D Mark II, a monopod and a few lenses.
To get a more abstract feel to the piece I had thought of putting it in black and white (or heavily adjusting the colour – as it is I just used Magic Bullet Looks relatively lightly), using a tilt-shift lens
or changing the speed of the clips. While the piece may have worked a bit better with some or all of those, in the end I wanted to see what I could do without. Also, I think that not including the sound distances the viewer from the immediate action but the addition of the music helps make it somehow more intimate and ties the whole thing together.
More than six decades on from the bombing, the reporting of the anniversary is pretty much the same from year to year, perhaps particularly in the Japanese media. With an event like this that is so well known and that is based on something that happened so long ago I thought that instead of the more standard approach of, say, on the spot interviews it was worthwhile to present people going about their business and then let the viewer contemplate the scene and draw their own conclusions. I think that this approach is particularly relevant for people living here in Japan who know the issues and who have watched or participated in the anniversary commemorations many times.
As an aside, the elderly man near the end who is sheltering under the newspaper is, if you understand Japanese, kind of amusing. The headline in big letters is a quote from the Mayor of Hiroshima calling on the government of Japan to get out from under the nuclear umbrella (of the US). The man is using the newspaper as a sun umbrella.
Filmed on the Canon 5D Mark II, with a 135mm f2, 50mm f 1.4, 16-35 f2.8 and a monopod.