n yeserday’s film class, I showed another movie for the first time. This semester, I am trying to introduce more films. I was certainly getting tired of showing the same ol’ same ol’ for the past eight years–Seven Samurai, Ikiru, Woman of the Dunes. But there were so few new Japanese films available with English subtitles. I mean, there were Anime, but there aren’t very many I would show in a Culture Through Film Course. There were also the horror flicks–Ring, Juon (Grudge), Uzumaki, The Cure–and of course, the extremely violent ones like Ichi the Killer, Tokyo Fist, and Suicide Club. If my class were strictly a film course, then I could probably get away with showing some of these films, but the course is supposed to show films that reflect the culture in one or another, so I was stuck.
But 2005 was a banner year for new J films. Some of the old ones that were NOT by Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Imamura or some of the other “internationally acclaimed” directors, have been released like Kill and Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People!). So I have been getting the library to purchase these new films to show in class. I’ve already shown Kill and Samurai Fiction. Today I showed Black Rain, a film on the struggles of a young woman who was near Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. The hero, Yasuko, is far away when the blast hits but she as she makes her way to Hiroshima to see if her relatives are okay, she is splattered with black rain–radioactive condensation from the atomic plume. The story follows her trials of being unable to get married after the war because of fears that she is too ill from the radiation. Others in her village also suffer from the effects of the war, psychologically and spiritually as well as physically. It is a sad and moving anti-war statement.
Some may view the film rather skeptically, as the Japanese are portrayed as victims of the war and the atomic bomb. Indeed, there are many elements in Japan who gladly remind the rest of the world that Japan is the only country to be attacked by an atomic bomb, but conveniently forget that Japan colonized and terrorized much of East Asia during the first half of the 20th century.
Still, there are those Japanese, like young Yasuko, who lived lives typical of many East Asian cultures–obedient to a fault, submissive to the dictates of superiors–and they end up paying for there obedience by suffering and ultimately dying. So perhaps we can accept this film as representing the suffering of the many innocent Japanese individuals rather than the suffering of Japan as a whole. Of course, I might be biased here. As many of you might remember, my mother was in Hiroshima back then, as well. I even began to write a bit about her actual experience–although I have yet to finish it. Even more, my mother’s name was Yasuko, too, so whenever I watch this movie, I can’t help but superimpose her over the character in the movie. Sadly (and I swear I didn’t plan it this way), today marks the 4th year since her passing…