Oscar's Documentary Shortlist

COUNTRY: U.S.

DIRECTOR: Steven Okazaki

ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: A previous Oscar winner for docu short subject (“Days of Waiting”), he also received nods for doc short “The Mushroom Club” and doc feature “Unfinished Business.”

FINANCING: 100% financed by HBO Documentary Films. Budget not available.

THEME: A sobering recounting of the atomic bombing of Japan as told by 14 survivors, interwoven with archival footage, art created by survivors and interviews with Americans who carried out the mission that resulted in unprecedented destruction and 200,000 civilian casualties.

VARIETY REVIEW SAYS: “Extensive survivor interviews and some hard-to-watch archival footage make this an important document. … While the film will primarily be an educational broadcast and classroom perennial, it should also be required viewing for advocates of the ‘Just nuke ‘em’ school of conflict resolution.”

DISTRIBUTION STATUS: Limited U.S. theatrical run; HBO premiere Aug. 6 (the 62nd anniversary of Hiroshima’s bombing). Still in midst of 50-city theatrical release in Japan.

ON THE MAKING OF THE FILM: Okazaki says he had 25 years of prep on the feature, a subject he first tackled in 1982 with WGBH’s “The Survivors.” “To me, it’s endlessly compelling, interesting and disturbing,” he explains. “There’s an obvious fear of the subject because of the images.” Survivors’ sharp memories create a sense of immediacy throughout the pic. Aud reaction was particularly gratifying, says Okazaki, because “people saw the film as more relevant to the present and to the future,” rather than an unresolvable argument about the past.

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