Narrated by Susan Sarandon, HIROSHIMA NO PIKA is an animated film based on the award-winning childrens book by the Japanese artist Toshi Maruki. Through Maruki's fearsome yet beautiful water color illustrations, the film tells the story of a young girl and her family who live through the horrific bombing of Hiroshima. Susan Sarandon lends her talent to this timely story, inspiring children to remember Hiroshima in hopes that it will not be repeated. Nominated for an Academy Award, HELLFIRE: A JOURNEY FROM HIROSHIMA captures the artists Iri and Toshi Maruki in action as they create "one of the world's most powerful and sustained expressions of the effect of the atomic bomb"- the Hiroshima Murals. Haunted by the memories of Hiroshima after the atomic blast, the Maruki's began a series of monumental paintings depicting what they had seen. With engaging interviews and extended sequences of the Marukis at work, HELLFIRE reveals a message of hope in our nuclear age, and is a reminder of the power of art to render visible and meaningful what still seems unimaginable.
Two sobering yet inspirational documentaries are perfectly paired on Hiroshima No Pika
, a superb DVD for all-ages viewing. The art of Toshi and Iri Maruki is horrifying--they focus exclusively on people after atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945--so the film may be somewhat disturbing for very young children, but the whole point of the Marukis' art is to never forget the horrors that human beings have wrought upon each other. Married for decades and collaborating as "rivals" whose art represents a formal clash of their highly different techniques, the Marukis create huge murals depicting the aftermath of the bombings (or the rape of Nangking, or the Nazi Holocaust), and as Iri Maruki (Japan's most celebrated illustrator of children's books) describes it, "when I draw people who are being slaughtered, I also feel as if I'm being slaughtered." Her remarkable response to this raw emotion is to draw "with kindness" toward the dead and dying, while Toshi alters her watercolor illustrations with his own smearings of India ink, transforming the work into something even darker and deeper in meaning.
The 25-minute Hiroshima No Pika (2005) is a moving rendition of Iri's award-winning children's book about a young girl and her parents in the aftermath of Hiroshima. Susan Sarandon (who provided anti-nuclear activism web-links for the DVD's bonus features) narrates the tale with subtle, heart-rending perfection. Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima is an hour-long, Oscar®-nominated documentary from 1986 that provides an in-depth portrait of the Marukis and their methods of creating some of the world's most hauntingly powerful artwork. The humanity that shines through--and the Marukis' passionate anti-war statements--makes these two films highly worthwhile for classes, discussion groups, or anyone seeking to appreciate these uniquely creative people. --Jeff Shannon