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4.2 out of 5 stars
Hiroshima (BBC History of World War II)
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190 of 204 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2007
Format: DVD
I am from Hiroshima. My father was 15 years old and was deployed as a student worker at a ship yard at the time. He does not talk much about his experience, but told me bits and pieces about what he saw. When I was an elementary school student, we had to watch the video footage of the victims that was extremely graphic. So nothing in this program was new to me, although it was very interesting to see how nuclear fusions started inside the bomb.

Having said that, I think this program is a good overview for people who are not familiar with the event. It talks about how the bomb was developed, the political circumstances, the US military mission, GIs who engaged in the mission, and of course, the effect on the people in Hiroshima. There is little criticism or political overtones in the way the program was made, although it is clear that there were terrible misunderstandings between Japanese and US leaders, and that a handful of Japanese extremists led the country into ruins.

I wish the program talked more about the way the atomic bomb affected people long after the event. There is one section that describes the "mistery illness" that plagued the survivers, but it did not talk about the deformed babies born to the mothers who were pregrant at the time, or the cancers that many of the survivers suffered later in their lives. The program also did not mention anything about the American POWs who were detained in Hiroshima at the time. They all perished along with thousands of people of Hiroshima. I am not sure how many Americans know this.

My father is fine. His family lived in the suburbs so none died because of the event although some of the family heirlooms had burn marks that were visible even decades later. My mother's grandparents, however, lived right by the T-shaped bridge that was used as a target so no remains were found. I remember my grandmother used to go to the annual memorial service every year. Although it was somewhat difficult for me to see the suffering of people reenacted in the program, the stupidity of the leaders, and the happiness and the joy that Americans were feeling after the bomb was dropped (not because I am bitter or critical of their actions, but because they really did not realize what was going on in Hiroshima and that they opened the door to a new era of nuclear threats), we need programs like this so we can learn from the history and remember that the war is savage, no matter what side you are on, and that the war should really be the last resort to resolve a conflict.
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108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
World history's first - and, to date, only - nuclear weapon attacks were the atomic devices the United States exploded over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. Frustrated by the intransigence of Japanese leadership and desperate to use any and all possible means to forestall a costly invasion of Japan's home islands, American president Harry Truman authorized the bombings. The attacks killed outright, perhaps 100,000 Japanese in Hiroshima and about another 50,000 at Nagasaki. Thousands more have since died from the lingering effects of the bombs' deadly radiation. Initially widely celebrated in Allied countries for helping bring history's most destructive war to a close, the attacks began to receive criticism almost as soon as the disturbing images of the bombs' Japanese victims were widely circulated. At the 50th anniversary of the bombings in 1995, the smoldering controversy flamed into a nation-wide, very public debate in the US focused on plans by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC to display an exhibit that many veterans and others who staunchly support the bombings considered one-sided and unfair.

Such criticism, however, cannot be leveled at Hiroshima, BBC Video's outstanding new addition to its highly-acclaimed DVD series, "BBC History of World War II." Without doubt, Hiroshima is the most fair and balanced comprehensive presentation yet produced of what has become one of history's most controversial events. It is also a dynamic example of the inherent power of film media to inform and enlighten in an interesting and absorbing manner. All of the latest and most effective techniques in documentary film production - historical participant interviews, docu-drama recreation, archival film footage and state-of-the-art computer graphics (CGI) - are combined in BBC Video's Hiroshima by a producer of skill and vision into a riveting film that captures viewers' attention from the first frame and firmly holds it until the end. One might be tempted to call it "entertaining" due to the visual appeal of its colorful and expertly done CGI, but the film's grim subject matter makes that term highly inappropriate.

Producer Paul Wilmshurst explains in an on-camera interview - one of several bonus features on the DVD - that his goal was to present three things: the science behind the bomb; the history of the event within its political context; and the human impact of the attack. He succeeds admirably in each of these, including the presentation of one revealing segment that actually places viewers inside the bomb itself as it plummets toward the center of Hiroshima to show how a nuclear explosion works (via some extraordinary CGI). Immediately following that segment, Wilmshurst combines CGI with superbly-done, well-acted docu-drama to give viewers a realistic experience of the nuclear weapon's three terrible effects: heat, blast and radiation. This chilling segment is as close as any of us will get - we hope! - to experiencing what it's like to be on the receiving end of an atomic bomb attack.

As dramatic and effective as is the DVD's outstanding use of CGI and docu-drama techniques, Hiroshima's most poignant moments are the numerous interviews of historical participants - and victims -- in this tragic event. Although the high-level American and Japanese decision-makers have long since passed away, Wilmshurst was able to include several revealing interviews with, among others, President Truman's US Navy aide-de-camp as well as surviving crewmen of the Enola Gay - the benignly-named B-29 Superfortress bomber that pilot Paul Tibbetts christened after his mother. The gut-wrenching testimonies of the several survivors of the Hiroshima explosion present an image of horror and unbelievable destruction that puts a tragic human face on a target that Enola Gay's crewmen could only make out that day as a jumbled collection of indistinct buildings clustered around a "T-shaped" aiming point - the bridge near the center of town that became ground zero at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945.

Wilmshurst wisely avoids including a voice-over narration that is overly moralizing, a tendency that has marred presentations of this event in past productions. Instead he lets the participants and victims speak for themselves in their interviews, often placing their contrasting perceptions and opinions of the bombing in such a manner that the opposing positions are clearly evident to the viewer. Viewers hear both sides and can make up their own minds without attempts to sway them one way or the other by the all-too-typical, heavy-handed narrative of other productions preaching 21st century morality in order to second guess leaders and soldiers who sixty years ago were caught in the middle of history's most brutal war. Hiroshima is refreshingly even-handed.

Yet, Hiroshima's voice-over narration is an integral part of the film. It expertly weaves together the interviews, docu-drama, CGI and archival footage into a coherent, comprehensive story that flows smoothly, almost effortlessly, from beginning (the explosion of the Trinity Device, the atomic test on July 16, 1945) to end (the terrible aftermath - the human cost -- of the bombings). Wilmshurst made an inspired choice as Hiroshima's narrator - the marvelous dramatic actor, John Hurt. One of Britain's most distinguished and accomplished actors, Hurt's distinctive, deeply resonant voice perfectly complements the "action" in the film. His narrative performance in Hiroshima establishes Hurt as possibly the front-runner to assume the mantle of "top documentary narrator" that has been sadly vacant since the passing of fellow actor, Laurence Olivier ("the voice" that made watching the documentary series World at War such a stirring experience).

Visually stunning, historically and scientifically accurate, and powerfully presented, BBC Video's Hiroshima is an expertly produced "must have" DVD that is clearly deserving of its 5-Star rating.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2011
A caveat, do not neglect to watch the second episode of this film. The first episode only covers events until just before the Hiroshima impact, and it is in the second episode that we see the "after" picture that contrasts with the "before" one, presented here.

If you are expecting an extensive and scientific overview of the weapons and tactics involved in the bombings, you will probably not enjoy this film. While such topics are briefly covered, this is first and foremost a portrait of the HUMAN cost of the bombing of Hiroshima, as recounted not only through historical records but eyewitness accounts by some of the few survivors still left alive. Some were children at the time, others teenagers, still others were grown adults. They came from different occupations, were at different places during the bombing, and had to endure different traumas and difficulties during the aftermath. Each story is different, yet all are tied together by the horror of what happened.

Unlike many films that either openly glorify or tacitly approve of the bombings and the development of nuclear weaponry, "Hiroshima" shows us the true cost of even a relatively small device. It measures that cost in human lives and property, in the lingering impact the events have even today, not in how many square miles of desert sand were turned to radioactive glass, or what happened to test animals and ships. Everyone should watch this film, both episodes, so that they can understand what the events meant to those who endured it, as opposed to the highly published experiences of the scientists and military officials that engineered it (but were ultimately unaffected).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
In human history there are events that can become so obscured by politics and social debates that the reality of the situation seems less severe. The atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima,at 8:15 AM on the morning of August 6'th,1945 really did change the world in a fundamental way. This final part of the WWII BBC documentary series attempts to do what might be thoguht of as impossible-to take a very difficult subject and objectify the situation as well as it could. This documentary not only features an intelligent and detailed narrative but excellent reenactments of the events discussed. The story starts out during the final days of the Manhattan Project,just before the Trinity test. There's even discussion as to the doubts about the severity of the results. Amid these portrayals are interviews with the surviving crewmen of the Enola Gay including the late Captain Paul Tibbits himself,who actually provides pointed insights into their mission as do the other members of the crew. On the Japanese end it doesn't take sides by pointing out how a) the US wasn't 100% sure if the effects of the A Bomb on humans and B)many Japanese citizans,including those living in Hiroshima at the time were quite willing to allow themselves to become suicide bombers for their emperor who they viewed as godlike.

The story itself gets very interesting at this point. Through CGI FX you become well equainted with the internal workings of a combat style A-Bomb. Everything from the special plugs used to arm the weapon are explain in detail. It would almost be highly compelling until it occures to you their discussing the original weapon of mass destruction. Even as the bomb is released and falling the dramatization is excellent,interspersing footage of the falling bomb with daily goings on in Hiroshima City in the moment before the detonation. After that the story turns to the "reality of the situation" very quickly. For years all we ever saw of this event was the flash and mushroom cloud opening up and a cloud of thick black smoke engulfing Hiroshima. As one of the Enola Gay's crew made clear no one had an idea what was happening underneath it. Now this documentary,with frightening detail makes it perfectly clear what we didn't see. We see a massive firestorm vaporizing people and buildings as if they were made of dust,all in one short instant. Than we hear first hand stories of some survivors:a combat soldier who was in the barracks at the time of the explosion,a bank clerk in a fairly well protected building,a doctor on the outskirts of the blast who is one of the few to have witnessed the event.

After this the city of Hiroshima is depicted as a nightmarish wasteland of charred,carbonized bodies,fires everywhere and people wandering about aimlessly with melting skin and severe burns. It looks like an unreal event out of a horror film but it really happened. The story also tells how the Japanese dealt with the situation before the surrender following the second bombing of Nagasaki. The day of the blast known in Japan as "Pikadon" I believe an infamous black rain,which resembled a shower of motor oil fell onto the city. Thirstquenced survivors drank the rain not realizing it was a form of deadly fallout. On the American side of course,following the bombing of Nagasaki the Japanese surrender and while from their point of view it seems as if happy days are ahead...on the other side of the world the survivors begin experience the consequences of the bomb and accompanying "black rain" with then largely unknown radiation sickness. The movie ends in thriving,attractive modern day Hiroshima where few scares of that dark day are left. So while this is at it's core a harrowing story depicted with such production excellence one feels as if they have actually experienced it,it's also an important and implicit reminder to everyone that when ones weapons grow faster than their wisdom one could wind up destroying themselves at their own hands. And morals of war aside,politics aside that is the question we should (even if we're often too scared to) ask ourselves.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2007
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This incredible BBC production is truly a "must have". Using unforgetable and often chilling first person eye witness interviews from some of the survivors, to the expertly re-created special effects and rare actual archival footage were are all taken and placed right there in 1945 to the very site of the blast.

Wisely, the BBC let's the viewer come to his or her own moralizing conclusion to this historical horrific event and fully takes into account
both Japanese and American perspectives.

Although I personally still feel the use of nuclear weapons was fully justified and ultimately saved thousands of both American and Japanese lives as a necessary way to put WW II to an end, it's also clear beyond a shadow of any doubt that nuclear weapons can never nor should be ever be considered as an option to be used again in warfare.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2010
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
On the anniversary of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, this film is a good reminder of actions and consequences. Wanting to "end the war once and for all" we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki. The consequences of that decision still linger, in deformed and disabled human beings. I understand that the United States did not want to face an invasion of Japan, and the ensuing casualties, but so many of the casualties were women, children, elderly, disabled. They all had the same hopes and dreams as the rest of humanity. The second disk, that takes place after the bomb was dropped, are haunting. There are still shadows on the pavement in Hiroshima, where people were instantly vaporized, and they were the lucky ones. The images of the people gulping the radioactive rain falling from the sky, because they were so thirsty, will linger in my mind forever. Nuclear weapons have no place in our society. The temptation to use them is too strong. Having just finished reading 'The Pacific', with great interest, this film is an interesting counterpoint to our side of the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2015
Format: Amazon Instant Video
I was always wondering just what the final moments were like just before the dropping of the bombs. I also needed to be reminded of the ultimatum's the US provided the Japanese...yet they still insisted on waging war against us, even after dropping the 1st bomb. It was amazing to see the depictions of the devastating aftermath of an Atomic bomb blast, yet their government signed their lives away by staying their course.

Unfortunate that all those people perished, and some in a very agonizing way.....so sad. But the War needed to end....In the hands of another government without the oversight of a nation like the US this would have been the "end of all" for many more lives. A story that needed to be told. I might even visit Hiroshima during their yearly memorial day recognizing this horrible event.

Excellent portrayal....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2015
Format: Amazon Instant Video
This is the best account I've seen on the atomic bomb attacks in Hiroshima and Nagazaki (and I've seen many). Very objective view from both sides, the Japanese and the American. I lived in Japan 6 years which allowed me to understand the culture and also visited the Atomic Bomb Memorial/museum in Hiroshima. Also, as an immigrant US Citizen who has lived in the USA for 20 years have absorbed what I consider the best and tolerated what I disagree with from the American culture. This may not mean much to you as reader of this review but I suggest you give it the benefit of the doubt, watch it and decide by yourself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Although this film is very emotionally searing, I believe it has tremendous potential as a learning tool. Although I realize that Americans at the time felt that a protracted war would mean the loss of thousands of more soldiers, the inhumanity of this evil weapon makes me ashamed that we used it, and more ashamed of Truman's glee when he heard that it had been a success. No country should have access to this kind of weapon. "Hiroshima" is an amazing production. I intend to use it in my college classes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Presents a well balanced view of the events. The dramatizations of the suffering that the people of Hiroshima experienced is among the most heart-wrenching I've ever seen.

I rate this 4 stars in part since I recommend another video as somewhat better: Hiroshima. I think the latter told a more complete story and had better casting.
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