IC Lecture: White Light, Black Rain

Japanese and Comparative Literature professor and Asian and Near Eastern Languages chair Scott Miller lectures on the documentary “White Light, Black Rain,” discussing the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at a recent International Cinema lecture. 

PROVO, Utah (Sept. 16, 2014)—With the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima approaching, the documentary “White Light, Black Rain” is a powerful reminder that the devastating effects of nuclear warfare linger on. At a recent International Cinema lecture BYU’s Japanese and Comparative Literature professor Scott Miller discussed the overt and subtle messages portrayed in Steven Okazaki’s award-winning film.

To put the film’s message into context, Miller referenced the novel Black Rain, by Masuji Ibuse. On the cover of the English translation is a quote by novelist C.P. Snow that reads, “Here is a novel… which turns Hiroshima into a major work of art.”

Miller said, “The first time I read that I thought, ‘That’s obscene. How can you take something like Hiroshima and make art out of it?’ But I’ve subsequently realized that art is a very powerful way of coming to grips with the bombings, and since 1945, a river of art has been produced from this tragedy.”

Okazaki’s documentary is just one example of many works of art inspired by the aftermath of the bombings. Miller said, “What Okazaki shows in the narrative of the documentary is that there are many, many sides to this story. It’s not that easy to polarize. You really need to look at the individual lives that were affected.”

According to Miller, interviews with Japanese victims and American crew members involved with the bombing do not offer an instant, knee-jerk reaction that is based on some kind of political theory. He said, “These are people who have the scars in their bodies and the memories in their minds that they have to live with.”

Miller also discussed the film’s troubling portrayal of how the victims are viewed in Japanese society. Miller said, “Even everyday members of Japanese society tend to fear the victims, and I think that one of the take-home messages from both the film and the bombing itself is that we as humans are weak and full of fear.”

Miller concluded with a warning to the viewer: “It doesn’t have a happy ending, but it has a very powerful ending. By the end of this film I hope it has done what Okazaki intended, and that is to make us all intelligent, informed people when it comes to the human cost of nuclear weapons. We’re seeing what it was like on the ground. It’s a powerful testimony of both the human spirit and the lingering effects of our own technological hubris.”

For more information on International Cinema, visit their website.

Sylvia Cutler (BA English '17)