PICTURES FROM A HIROSHIMA SCHOOLYARD: SEEDS OF HOPE
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Synopsis

In 1996, a box was uncovered at the home of a parishioner of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington D.C. In that box were nearly 50 colorful drawings made by children as thanks for gifts received from the church fifty years earlier.

Not many people in the church knew the story behind these pictures, they only knew they were made by school children in Japan after World War II.

The brightly colored pictures depicted scenes of the community the children lived in; self portraits, a cityscape, festival flags and kites flying against a bright blue sky, children on a playground, cherry blossoms in bloom, city traffic on a bridge, a girl in a beautiful kimono, these were the subjects the children chose to draw. No pictures of sadness, no trauma, no fear; none of the pictures reflected the horror that these children had endured less than two years earlier when a bomb, like no other before it, was dropped and detonated 1500 meters above their homes in the city of Hiroshima, Japan.

In 1997, having been re-discovered, the pictures were moved to a vault in the church. For years members would pull them out exclusively for atomic bomb survivors or "Hibakusha," the Japanese word meaning "explosion affected person."

In 2007, the pictures began a long journey back to the place where they were created, Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima, Japan. It is that journey that Pictures From A Hiroshima Schoolyard (working title) will follow - from restoration to exhibition.


Treatment

Set in the present but rooted in the past, this is a story of the power of reconciliation and the promise of hope.

During this one-hour documentary journey, we'll meet current parishioners of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington who will tell the story of A. Powell Davies, the minister in 1946 who, infuriated by the picture of an A-bomb commemoration he saw in a newspaper, inspired his congregation to reach out to children of the decimated city of Hiroshima after the bombing.

Interviews with members who took part in the historic exchange will reveal a parish passionate and active in promoting reconciliation at a time when national bitterness over the long fought war was deep. Through interviews with the younger members who will shepherd these historic pictures on their way back to their spiritual home reveal a modern community that continues the legacy of peace and reconciliation that has been the character of the church since it's formation in the 18th century.

The film will also present the experiences of the Japanese children (now in their late 70's) who drew these pictures. Through interviews and documentary footage of their lives today, these survivors will recount their own memories of the blast, the aftermath of the nuclear attack, school days during reconstruction and the gifts they received from America. The camera will follow them as they reunite with each other and finally with the pictures in which they encapsulated their childlike spirits.

From the beginning, the pictures have had a life of their own and they are, in effect, the central characters of the film, embodying the central theme of hope for future generations.
Their journey will be chronicled. From their restoration by professional conservators in the United States to their eventual physical journey back to the actual building where they were drawn.

In a practical sense the documentary is about people coming together to exhibit some extraordinary pictures drawn by war ravaged children. In a spiritual sense it is a documentary about an unfaltering optimism in the face of a truly unbelievable tragedy, an optimism only children can inspire.


Characters

To date, producer Shizumi Shigeto Manale has found more than 20 former student artists and teachers from Honkawa Elementary School. Several have died since we began filming, so it is imperative that we document as many as we can. The following are some that we intend to profile in the film.

The Student Artists

  • Yoshie Fujii (female, 9 years old)
    Yoshie drew a beautiful picture of the Honkawa River with cherry blossoms, a picture that reflects her hope for the future. Her grandfather and cousin were killed by the bomb, which also destroyed her 250 year-old buke ("samurai") house. Shinzo Hamai, a relative of hers, was Mayor of Hiroshima from 1947-1955 (and again from 1959-1967), and played a key role in helping to rebuild the city after the bombing. Yoshie became a dentist and now lives in Tokyo.

  • Yoshiko Ito (female, 8 years old)
    Yoshiko drew a picture of a schoolyard full of happy children. She says it was her "wish" that she was drawing. Yoshiko lost her entire family to the bomb. She was raised in two different foster homes after she lost all of her family. She grew up to become an elementary school teacher and local newspaper writer. Hiroshima is still her home.

  • Misako Shimamura (female, 9 years old)
    Misako drew the Honkawa River lined with green cherry trees.? She was evacuated with her family, but she lost all of her classmates and her family lost their home and relatives. She had wanted to become a nurse when she grew up, and her wish came true. She still lives in Hiroshima and became a nurse at Red Cross Hospital. She has been very active in assisting hibakusha, the atomic bomb survivors.

  • Genji Higashikawa (male, 11 years old)
    Genji drew a picture of an old temple from memory. He was in Manchuria with his parents when the bomb was dropped and came back to the city in 1946. He lost his uncle and cousins in the bombing. He owns a sushi restaurant in Hiroshima.

  • Akihisa Yagi (male, 10 years old)
    Akihisa drew a self-portrait standing next to his sister. Above them is a kite in the form of a big red flying carp. He lost his grandparents and 150 year-old house in the bombing. He never went far from the school where he drew his picture. Today he is a board member of Honkawa Elementary School.

  • Kaeko Taida (female, 9 years old)
    One day, a teacher brought gladiolas to Honkawa Elementary School. Kaeko had never seen them before, and she painted them. She is now a nurse and lives in Kanazawa Prefecture.

  • Toshimi Ishida (male, 6 years old)
    Toshimi's picture was of an imaginary spring flower and hiking with schoolmates. He was not present during the bombing, but came back to Hiroshima one week after the bombing. Some time later, he discovered that he was a hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor), having been affected by residual radiation after the bombing. He became an architect in Hiroshima.

 

The Teachers

  • Susumu Kaya (former teacher, 22 years old)
    Mr. Kaya taught at Honkawa Elementary School from 1946-1949. He was trained at an Imperial military school and studied nautical engineering. His father was the head engineer on the submarine Yamato and his uncle was the Minister of Finance/Secretary of the Treasury in the Japanese government during the war. Because of his family history, he thought he would become submarine engineer, but after the war he lost his dream. He was confused about what to do with his life until his mother advised him to become a schoolteacher in the new democracy of Japan. He dedicated the rest of his life to teaching elementary and junior high school students in Hiroshima. It was Mr. Kaya who created the cover of the original portfolio in which the drawings were bound. On February 14, 2010 he died at the age of 86. We were honored to interview him.

  • Setsyko Yamagiwa (former teacher, 21 years old)
    When the atomic bomb dropped Ms. Yamagiwa was able to survive, but her mother, father and sister were killed. She became a teacher in the spring of 1947, but became ill soon after and had to leave the school. She returned in the spring of 1948 and stayed until 1950 when she became ill again.

 

All Souls Unitarian Church

The producers also intend to profile the current congregation of All Souls Unitarian Church through interviews with:

  • Rev. Rob Hardies, senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., a historic, diverse congregation in the heart of the nation's capital.

  • Rev. Louise Green, social justice minister at All Souls Unitarian Church. She is a clergywoman and community organizer who has been on staff at the congregation for four years, after a decade in New York City. Her work with the Hiroshima Children's Drawings and Committee is part of the ongoing commitment of All Souls to peace and justice, as well as to telling the story of this important history and exchange.

  • Bob Freeman, a long-time member of All Souls Church and chair of the A. Powell Davies Memorial Committee formed to shepherd the restoration and exhibition of the drawings.

  • Jane Pfeiffer, an elder of the church. She was A. Powell Davies' secretary and a vital link to the history of these pictures and the compassionate community from which they were born.

  • Muriel Davies, the 101 year-old widow of A. Powell Davies. She remembers clearly the moment that she and her husband heard the news that the bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and the outrage her husband felt.

  • Melvin Hardy, a long time church member. With experience in the conservation arts, he is a vital part of the A. Powell Davies Memorial Committee.

  • The Congregation of All Souls, a congregation that has always been active in many important issues throughout its history, including the abolition of slavery and the fight for civil rights. The current congregation proudly continues the legacy of the founding fathers who established the church, and pastors like Dr. Davies who gave it a soul.

 

U.S. Occupation Personnel

Dr. Howard Bell, Social Studies Advisor, and Francoise Bell

While no longer alive, Dr. Howard Bell and his wife, Francoise, were bridges between the U.S. and Japan without whom the drawings would never have been created. Dr. Bell visited Hiroshima in early 1947 as part of his duties as social studies advisor in the Civil Information and Education Section of GHQ/SCAP during the U.S. occupation. Following this visit, Dr. Bell advised Rev. A. Powell Davies of All Souls Unitarian Church of the desperate needs of the Japanese children of Hiroshima and the benefits of U.S. grassroots groups reaching out to Japan. Having formed a close personal relationship with Honkawa Elementary School, Dr. and Mrs. Bell returned to Japan in 1952 on a private visit.


Style

In verite style, the film will follow current events as they unfold - from the delivery of the restored pictures to the opening of an exhibit in Hiroshima, Japan, interspersed with footage of both the efforts of the current All Souls parish and the lives of several of the surviving artists. Sparse narration and interviews with key characters will work together to relay this humanitarian story, both past and present. Yet, the film will be very visual. Shot in high definition, none of the vibrancy of the pictures themselves nor the colors of Japan will be lost on the viewers. The camera will be unobtrusive but intimate in capturing the human emotion as excitement builds throughout the film to the point when all the characters finally meet to display these symbols of hope to the world, and it will capture the vibrancy of the restored pictures in spectacular high definition.


Audience

The aim of this documentary is to raise awareness of the lessons derived from the World's history and help foster harmony among multi-cultural and diverse world communities.

This documentary film is intended as educational material for students of American history, Asian studies, Japanese history, and World War II history. The history of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings is still a taboo subject, despite its historic, cultural and humanitarian significance. The film provides an intimate account of these tragic events through the eyes of the children, while - at the same time -- instilling a sense of hope and inspiration, which is based on the acts of kindness by the ordinary citizens and the purity of the children's hearts and minds.

Copyright (C) 2012 PICTURES FROM A HIROSHIMA SCHOOLYARD.