As India enters the nuclear arms age, the Hiroshima Festival invited a group of Indian animators to the famous Japanese city. One of the delegates, Prakash Moorthy, was moved to action.
Editor's Note: With India's recent arrival into the circle of countries with nuclear arms, the Hiroshima International Animation Festival invited a delegation of Indian animators to Hiroshima so that they could witness, as artists, the devastation wrought against the city in the final days of the Second World War. Animation World Magazine is proud to present one man's point-of-view on how this trip influenced him.
Cities are full of ant-like walking, loving, hating, laughing, crying, men, women and children. It is amusing to realize how issues that grip people and send them scurrying like ants, look so remote and insignificantly mild, when seen and imagined from above. It was 8:10 in the morning and our plane was circling above Hiroshima before landing. Beneath us was a city that looked like any other city would look from above. Neat, simple and peaceful in the morning sun. Blue sky and all. Fifty-three years ago on August 6 at 8:15 AM, it looked like any other city from above too. A few seconds later it did not look like any other city -- an image too horrible to imagine. Loving a neighbor can be a task, but all agree that from up in the sky, there is only one overpowering emotion one feels toward humanity: love. I wonder how this city was once completely denied it. I am an independent animation film maker from India and was invited to the Hiroshima `98 International Animation Film Festival. I am from Kerala, India's most southern state. To make a living, I also design sets for the live-action film industry there. Hiroshima was my first animation film festival abroad, as well as my first trip to Japan. For this, I am very grateful to Sayoko Kinoshita, the Director of Hiroshima `98. When I landed, I met the nicest people. They were nice in Hiroshima before August 6, 1945 too. I met one of the few who survived. Mr. Sunao Tsuboi was a young boy then. He is now the Secretary General of Hiroshima A-bomb Survivors Organization. He ceaselessly works, when his frail health allows him, to convince people of the terrible sickness of war. He was more than a kilometer away from the hypocenter when the atomic bomb fell. He was on his way to school. When he came to, his skin was falling off like an old shirt. Smiling, he told us that he did not want to understand military might, a nation's security concerns, nor patriotism or nationalism. He had no meanings for the words deterrence, stock-piling or bargaining power that the nations of the world speak of today. I believe he is able to see us all from above without ever leaving the ground, knowing how insignificant our pride and prejudice are. He went to India and spent a lot of time with the common people in New Delhi. He said that he was sad to see so many poor people in India. When a spirited individual asked if he had also liked the architectural beauty of the city, he was apologetic and sad as he replied bluntly, "I am no tourist. I did not go to India as a tourist." At the Hiroshima Airport, I also met England's Dave Brunskill, an artist/animator who works with children. He was invited to show his work at Hiroshima `98. Dave studied to become a furniture designer but found himself doing animation. It was his idea to go to the Peace Park and the A-bomb Dome as soon as we arrived. I was overwhelmed with everything I saw there. I saw people praying, both young and old, and placing flowers and paper wreaths. Young lovers stood holding hands, as if forever, near a huge grassy mound that a plaque said was a mound of ashes from the hundreds of people who perished where they stood. The image of Jacob Bronowski by the pond at Auschwitz came to my mind: `We have to cure ourselves of the itch for the absolute knowledge and power. We have to touch people.'
I wonder if there is another place on earth where an event of such violence, an event so devoid of respect to fellow human beings, has passed. Is there another place like this Peace Park, which shows no anger, no grudge, only a reminder to future generations that the will to love is far stronger than that to destroy? In a short time, the Peace Park at Hiroshima has become a place of pilgrimage to me, where, I know I will return many times. Though I met him at the airport and shook his hand, this is where I knew Dave Brunskill. I saw him affected, deeply moved, as he walked about from cenotaph to monument. Maybe, I made a similar impression on him too. Later that day, we talked about the strong feelings and images that we felt at the park and how they would reflect in our work for a long time to come. Soon we agreed that we should work together on a film. We saw a wrist watch that stopped at 8:15; a twisted lunch box with rice burned to a black mass; a vanishing shadow on a granite wall; blood-stained school uniforms; pieces of nail and skin from a little boy preserved by his dying mother for his father who did not come back to see because he died fighting in a far away land; a model of "Little Boy" that the Enola Gay carried and dropped; the hastily type-written order to use the special bomb -- all this and much more stood like ghosts before us at the Peace Museum, wanting to be part of the new story that Dave and myself are resolved to write, draw, animate, and make into film. Drawing inspiration from Renzo Kinoshita's Pica-Don and as a tribute to Sunao Tsuboi and the many others like him, we hope to screen our film at the next International Animation Festival at Hiroshima in the year 2000. We have no idea where our funding will eventually come from, but we are certain that it will come. Hiroshima `98 has been a wonderful experience for the films viewed and people met. Truly a festival devoted to peace featuring an inspiring clutch of international films. Amazing, for a first timer like me, to discover that there exists many others who are concerned with the same concerns that affect me; to know that one is not alone is a wonderful situation to be in. Prakash S. Moorthy is an independent animation film maker based in Kerala, India.