A perfect place for fostering peace

Award-winning director believes Hiroshima can become an international site for conflict resolution

by Sayo Sasaki

Kyodo News

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima 65 years ago has been told from one generation to another in numerous ways, but Academy Award-winning film director and producer Malcolm Clarke is attempting a different approach.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which portrays the tragic scene, and its effect on visitors are key themes in a 90-minute documentary feature that Clarke, 55, is preparing to shoot for release around summer 2011.

In the film, tentatively titled “A World Without Peace,” Clarke hopes to include interviews with people involved in conflict resolution, such as Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as prominent figures who have visited the museum.

The museum houses materials such as a burned tricycle and hair from a victim of the bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, which is estimated to have killed 140,000 within that year.

“I think that many people who have visited the Hiroshima museum have been changed forever,” Clarke said in a recent interview, comparing it with his own experience of visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, which he said was so horrific, it felt like being “banged around the head with a hammer.”

“Just like dropping a pebble into water, you see the ripples going away and see what I call the ‘Hiroshima effects’ remain in the minds of some of the people who visited,” he said, noting the museum serves as a good gateway for people to enter the broad subject of peace.

Instead of focusing on the stories of people who suffered the atomic bombing, Clarke said the film will be about coming to Hiroshima, walking away and working for peace as a result, as he believes it is important to say “something new” when others have already explored the topic many times.

Clarke, a native of Britain now living in Montreal, has visited Japan about 20 times over the last 20 years. He believes Hiroshima could become an international home for conflict resolution and intends to propose the idea in the film.

“It would be very interesting if Hiroshima invited adversaries . . . and sponsored peace conferences. It’s the perfect place in the world,” he said, as the city “has risen from the ashes and now has an international reputation as a city that promotes peace.”

“It could be the one place in the world where people feel that they can come and can sort out their difference because there is no other place like that,” he said.

Clarke has written and directed many films, including the Academy Award-winning documentary feature “You Don’t Have to Die” in 1989.

More recently, “Prisoner of Paradise,” a 2003 film about a man who was sent to a concentration camp where he was ordered to make a Nazi propaganda film, was also nominated for an Academy Award.

He has also worked on documenting the lives of Japanese, including motorcycle gangs in Kobe, a blind female “goze” musician in Niigata Prefecture and a billionaire in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Clarke is hoping people around the world, especially young people, will see the planned documentary.

“The people who matter for this film are the young people,” he said, as it is “almost too late” to leave a lasting impact on people “when they are 60 or 70.”

“The purpose of the film is so that it (Hiroshima) will never happen again,” he said.

Clarke plans to prepare for filming by traveling to cities in Japan and later visiting countries experiencing conflicts.