Kaz Suyeishi Presents “Hibakusha”

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Phuc Pham | New University

As a collaborative effort, the Asian Pacific Student Association (APSA), Global Zero and the UCI Japanese language program hosted a screening of the film “Hibakusha” in Humanities Gateway 1030 on Nov. 15.

The film followed the life of a survivor of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima—Kaz Suyeishi. Suyeishi, who asserts that she is 85 years young, is a hibakusha, a Japanese term which literally translates to “explosion-covered people.”

Denoting the survivors of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, the term also lends itself as the title of the film chronicling Kaz’s survival. “Hibakusha” is a 45-minute animated film produced by Steve Nguyen and Choz Belen of StudioAPA and Iconic Films that recounts Kaz’s survival story. Alison Tominaga, a fourth-generation Japanese-American and one of APSA’s program coordinators, opened the evening by explaining the hope that the film would “foster learning, and promote awareness about the power of nuclear weapons so that such devastating events will never occur again.”

The film’s plot is propelled by flashbacks that take place in 1945 Hiroshima, Japan  during the day that the Little Boy atomic bomb was dropped and of the resulting aftermath. Framed within the context of a 40thcommemoration interview segment on NBC news, Kaz’s flashbacks retell her experience with vivid detail. One scene depicts her father’s skin coming off due to the radiation as he retreats his hand from hers, while another recounts her day spent in a mass grave with her friend Asako desperately searching over 300 dead bodies for Asako’s little brother.

The in-movie interview segment also showcased the unapologetic assertion of Colonel Paul Tibbets that he would repeat the bombing of innocent civilians if he was called to do it again and that his actions saved thousands of lives in WWII. The pilot of the “Enola Gay,” the Boeing B-29 bomber that dropped the “Little Boy” bomb on Hiroshima, Tibbets’s response solicited gasps of utter shock from the audience.

Following the film, Kaz fielded questions from the audience. Kaz reminded the audience to “don’t ever fight back, be patient.” When asked what sentiments she had in regards to US involvement in the war, she said that an attitude of patience and forgiveness instilled by her parents  has allowed her to forgive Tibbets for his involvement in the Hiroshima bombing. While she has been able to forgive Tibbets and she never harbored any resentment towards the US, Kaz further asserted that “war is just a stupid game.”

As the evening came to a close, Kaz echoed her activism against nuclear proliferation and reminded the audience that “people power is stronger than politics.” She urged the audience that it is imperative her generation be the last hibakusha.

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