By Don Simpson | January 23, 2012
Director: Stuart Overbey
Eighteen months ago, I watched and reviewed Lucy Walker’s documentary Countdown to Zero which set an extremely high bar for non-fiction films with anti-nuclear agendas. I expressed my opinions fairly exhaustively on nuclear weapons in my review of Countdown to Zero, so I am not going to repeat any of that here. I will only repeat that I am devoutly anti-nuclear, so the prospect of another anti-nuclear documentary appeals to me. As far as I am concerned, this is a message that needs to be repeated until the naysayers of the world finally understand the frightening situation that the human race has created for ourselves. Unfortunately, we are all in this together…
Stuart Overbey’s The Forgotten Bomb follows the personal journey of narrator Bud Ryan. Ryan’s anti-nuclear philosophy began in the early 1990s during his first visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan. The memorial immediately opened Ryan’s eyes to the story of the atomic bomb from the perspective of the countless innocent victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Ryan interviews survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who recollect the unfathomable horrors of those two days in August 1945. Sure, the interviews are over 50 years after the events occurred, but these harrowing experiences will never be forgotten. This is one instance that I can be relatively certain the subjects’ recollections are as clear now as they were 55 years ago. The survivors’ words alone are powerful enough to induce both nausea and tears, but these are stories that everyone must hear. (It is also worth stressing that in both cities, most of the dead and injured were civilians.)
Most citizens of the United States continue to believe that the catastrophic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a necessary means to an end — the end being that of World War II. Ryan interviews scientists who were involved in the construction of the atomic bombs as well as prominent military and political figures, allowing them to give their opinions on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of them repeat the tired old refrain — the bombings prompted Japan to surrender and therefore saved more lives than Little Boy and Fat Man took.
Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, tells another side of the story. Republicans (except for Ron Paul) seem to have forgotten that Reagan believed in the necessity of the total disarmament of nuclear weapons, and it was Shultz who is credited for putting that concept into Reagan’s head. Shultz is still one of the strongest public supporters of nuclear disarmament; most famously co-authoring (with William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn) an opinion paper published in the Wall Street Journal on January 15, 2008 entitled “Toward a Nuclear-Free World”. Ryan interviews other supporters of a nuclear-free world, but Shultz is destined to be the one who will have the best chance of changing the minds of naysayers.
The Forgotten Bomb also covers some of the same ground as Countdown to Zero, specifically factoring in human error to the equation. With the single press of a button, a nuclear bomb can kill millions of innocent people. What if the pressing of that button was a mistake? Both documentaries review some of the nightmarishly close calls we have had over the years and conclude that, in any of these instances, one single human (or technological) error could have prompted the end of the world. It is a mad, mad, mad, MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) world — the launch of one nuclear weapon could start a domino effect that will result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of both the attacker and the defender.
I am all for the destruction of all nuclear weapons but, to be perfectly frank, I am also a pragmatic pessimist and I therefore find it impossible to believe that we can permanently eradicate nuclear weapons from the human consciousness. I really hate to say it, but I do not believe there is enough trust and honesty in this world for total disarmament to ever actually happen. That does not mean that I am opposed to trying; in fact, I would be totally overjoyed if the world could prove me wrong on this!
The Forgotten Bomb is now available on DVD thanks to Cinema Libre Studio.