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Local documentarian Susan Strickler, left, joined producer Mitchie Takeuchi onstage at the Moviehouse in Millerton following the Salisbury Forum screening of “The Vow From Hiroshima” on Sunday, Jan. 15. Photo By Leila Hawken

Hiroshima film to gain a national audience

MILLERTON — A screening of the new documentary film “The Vow from Hiroshima” was held at the Millerton Moviehouse on Sunday, Jan. 15. A near-capacity audience attended the program that was sponsored by the Salisbury Forum, staying to continue the conversation that the film invited.

Early in the post-screening discussion, the film’s award-winning director and Northwest Corner resident Susan Strickler announced that the documentary has been selected for wide broadcast by national public television. It’s that compelling a message supporting the goal of a total worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

Joining Strickler on the Moviehouse stage was Mitchie Takeuchi, the film’s producer and a second-generation survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The film has documented the lifelong commitment of Setsuko Thurlow, who survived the first atomic bomb at age 13 by “climbing toward the light” in the wake of the bombing that exploded near her school and killed her classmates. Thurlow has just celebrated her 91st birthday.

Thurlow’s pledge to her classmates directed of her life’s work, eventually earning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for her ICAN organization (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). She delivered the acceptance speech in Oslo, dedicating it to all survivors of the bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Introduced by Salisbury Forum President Pat Jenny, local documentarian Strickler and producer Takeuchi spoke eloquently of the film and the unyielding work of Setsuko Thurlow to spur forward momentum toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Takeuchi recalled that she first met Strickler in Vienna during a speaking engagement.

“I did not intend to be in the film,” Takeuchi said, but she was, important to telling the story from the perspective of a granddaughter of a doctor who survived the blast severely injured but intent on treating the multiple victims.

A few questions centered on the staunch reluctance of the bomb’s survivors to speak of the bombing when asked by ensuing generations who might speak or write about it. A stigma persists, partially due to uncertainties about the health effects of radiation exposure, Takeuchi explained.

Strickler described her intentional decision to avoid horrific images in assembling the visuals for the film.

“The intent is to grow the movement regardless of what happened,” Strickler said, “to appeal to people’s hearts.”

Strickler said that she seeks to counter the narrative of how the existence of these bombs serves as a deterrent, a protection.

“We need the public to understand the issues,” Strickler added. “It’s dumb luck that we have avoided a nuclear accident or attack.”

The original United Nations charter in 1948 included a goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, Strickler noted.

Audience discussion raised the possibilities of including the film in area schools’ curricula to spur discussion among the young.

“I believe in the power of the American people,” said Takeuchi. “I have such hope. I know the people will act if they are informed.”

Asked what actions can be taken by ordinary people, Strickler and Takeuchi offered four: Approach local boards of education to promote showing of the film to classes; support organizations like ICAN, presently numbering 680 worldwide groups; urge local elected officials to become involved; and remain engaged with the issue.

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