Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard

Written & Directed By Bryan Reichhardt | Produced By Shizumi Shigeto Manale

About the Film

A collection of surprisingly joyful drawings created by school children living among the ruins of Hiroshima in 1947 becomes the heart and soul of this true, inspiring story about an exchange of gifts between Americans and Japanese after a devastating war. This powerful documentary about reconciliation and the power of gift, introduces the children artists  (now in their late 70s) who reflect on their early lives amidst the rubble of their destroyed city and the hope they shared through their art. In 2010, the newly restored drawings, buried for decades deep inside All Souls Church in Washington DC, are taken back to Japan where they are reunited with the artists and exhibited in the very building where they were created.


Synopsis

“The people of All Souls Church are the keepers of a treasure…”

In 1995, a box is uncovered at the home of a parishioner of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington D.C. In that box are 48 colorful drawings made by children as thanks for gifts received from the church fifty years earlier. The brightly colored pictures depict scenes of beauty and joy—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.  There are no pictures of sadness, no trauma, no fear. None of the pictures reflect the horror that these children had endured less than two years earlier when a bomb, like no other before it, was dropped and detonated above their homes in the city of Hiroshima, Japan.

“The world will note that an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima..”

Kenji Nakazawa remembers a clear blue sky on the morning of August 6th, 1945. While talking to the mother of a friend on his way to school, he noticed a B-29 bomber plane miles above the city. Kiyomi was late to school that morning. As she and a friend change into the gym shoes before joining their classmates in the yard, a second sun detonates above their city. All goes black. Kiyomis is the only student of Honakawa Elementary School to survive that day

On August 5, 1945 the Reverend A. Powell Davies, Pastor of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington DC, was horrified to hear about the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. He knew that the bomb’s release had changed the world forever. Paul Pfeiffer, a parishioner at All Souls, was a Naval officer in the Pacific fleet in 1945.  He remembers the feelings of elation and relief when the bomb was dropped. Judith Bauer, also a parishioner, remembers a somber reaction to the news. Though bitterness ran deep across America after such a brutal war, many recognized the horrible magnitude of the event.

 “a monstrous betrayal of all that the broken hearted of the world are waiting.”

One year later, near the anniversary of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Rev. Davies saw a picture in a newspaper that shocked and enraged him.  

“the children have nothing..”

Davies indignation over the image was reported nation wide and eventually reached a member of Gen,. MaCArthur’s civilian staff in Japan, Howard Bell. Mr. Bell wrote to Rev. Davies and suggests a way to help.

Davies inspires his congregation to collect school supplies for the children of Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima, who had survived the bombing and were struggling to move on with their lives. In December of 1947, a ton of school supplies and other gifts are delivered to Hiroshima.

In gratitude, those same children send a collection of drawings to the All Souls parishioners, beautiful drawings of cherry blossoms, festivals, children playing and picking flowers, kites in the sky. The drawings showed in brilliant color the children's memories of better times and their hopes and dreams for the future. 

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The pictures were celebrated in 1948, but over the decades they disappeared from view and memory until they were serendipitously rediscovered in 1995. The pictures were moved to a vault in the church and for years members would pull them out exclusively for atomic bomb survivors or "Hibakusha," the Japanese word meaning "explosion affected person."

“…before this journey, these were just drawings.  Now they are people.”

In 2010, the drawings are brought back to Hiroshima and reunited with the artists who drew them. Working together, members of All Souls Church and the surviving artists hang the pictures on the very walls of the building in which they were created, allowing them to radiate their message of peace and hope to the world.


The Artists

With the assistance of producer Shizumi Manale, the church was able to reconnect with more than 22 of the 48 artists.  The artists below are featured in the film:

  • 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 both killed by the bomb, which also destroyed her 250 year-old buke ("samurai") house. Shinzo Hamai, a relative, 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 Itoo (female, 8 years old)
    Yoshiko drew a picture of a schoolyard full of happy children playing on a merry-go-round and sliding down a slide.  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 Simomura (female, 9 years old)
    Misako drew the Honkawa River, lined with green cherry trees, with her school in the distance.  She was evacuated with her family before August 1945, but she lost all of her classmates and her family lost their home and many 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 the atomic bomb survivors.
  • Genji Higashigawa (male, 11 years old)
    Genji drew a picture of an ancient 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 now owns a sushi restaurant in Hiroshima.                                      
  • Toshimi Ishida (male, 7 years old)
    Toshimi's picture depicts he and his schoolmates picking flowers on a beautiful spring day.  He does not remember, but he hopes that it is the scene of something he actually experienced.  Toshimi 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.
  • Nobuhiro Nishimura (male, 10 years old)
    In 1947 Nobuhiro had never seen a car in Hiroshima - only jeeps.  He admits that his father helped him draw his picture of a futuristic car, the type of car, he says, that he would have designed.  His grandparents were kimono makers in Hiroshima and both were killed by the bomb.  He took up the family trade and he now lives in a building, which he owns, located on the same spot as his grandparents' kimono shop. 

About The Producers

Bryan Reichhardt – Writer and Director

Bryan Reichhardt is an award winning filmmaker drawn to compelling stories about cultural connection.  Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard is his third feature length documentary film.  Reichhardt's previous film, Barnstorming, is a truly American story about a group of antique planes who land every year in a farmer's field to put on an impromptu air show for the farmer, his family and hundreds of his neighbors.  An audience favorite at film festivals, Barnstorming has been airing on PBS stations around the country since 2010 and thousands of DVDs have sold to fans around the world.

Prior to Barnstorming, Reichhardt was co-producer, co-writer and director of Geisha: An Artist's Journey, a documentary following Japanese-American performance artist Shizumi Shigeto Manale as she explores the enigmatic world of Japanese Geisha. This one-hour program premiered at the National Geographic Society headquarters in March of 2006 and was featured in the 2007 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It also aired on PBS stations around the country.

A 25 year veteran in production, Reichhardt has produced and/or directed hundreds of programs on everything from migratory birds (Flying Home,winner of the Videographers Award) to an interactive, on-line documentary about an African American one-room school house in rural Virginia (Waterford's Second Street School.)  He has worked as a producer/editor at CNN and has produced multiple series for the DIY Network as well as two documentary series for the CPB/Annenberg Channel - Reactions In Chemistry and Democracy In America.

Early in his career he directed Shizumi Dance Theater ,a documentary/performance program produced by Junko Nakamura which won a cable Ace Award.  He was nominated for another Ace Award for his program The New You which documented a innovative welfare program in Alexandria Virginia. In November of 2001 Reichhardt traveled to Pakistan for the U.S. State Department to produce news segments about refugee relief efforts on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. While there he was able to secure interviews and go places that had been off limits to other crews. The segments aired on many world networks including CNNRueters and the BBC.

Reichhardt is currently in development on several new projects, again focusing on culture, peace and reconciliation.  His production company, Boru Media, operates out of Silver Spring, Maryland.

 

Shizumi Shigeto Manale – Producer

Shizumi Shigeto Manale is a dancer, performing artist, choreographer, director, author, and film producer born in Hiroshima and raised in Osaka, Japan.  She has received numerous awards for her works, including the 2010 Maryland State Montgomery County Executive’s Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Outstanding Artist and Scholar Award and a Cable ACE Award. 

She worked with Maestro Placido Domingo on the Washington Opera’s 2011 performance at the Kennedy Center of Madame Butterfly.  She danced and lectured at the Smithsonian Institution for President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration.  Her children’s Kodomo Dance Troupe performed before President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House Millennial Celebrations in 2000.  She served as artistic director of the opening ceremonies of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in DC between 2002 and 2009.  Her film Artist in Loneliness was shown at the Vincent Van Gogh Museum for the 100-year-anniversary of his death in Amsterdam in 1990.  

She directed, wrote, and choreographed a joint U.S-Japanese musical theater production for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at GallaudetUniversity in 1994-7, and collaborated with her husband on a Zen Garden exhibition at National Geographic.  Most recently, Shizumi has been working with the Roundhouse Theater on Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.
 
 Shizumi’s primary and original artistic discipline has been dance.  From an early age, she was trained in Japanese traditional Kyogen and Noh theater andJiuta-mai dance.  Later she studied at the San Francisco Conservatory Ballet. Among her other notable achievements: the documentary film —Geisha: An Artist’s Journey— which she co-produced has aired frequently on PBS since 2007 and was selected for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2008.  It premiered at National Geographic Society in 2008.  Her play, White Frost Falling, was performed at The Fringe Performing Arts Festival in Scotland in 2005 and shown on a BBC television documentary.  Her Japanese-language children’s book 48 Colors of Dreams was privately published in Hiroshima in 2012; copies are currently being distributed to schools in the Hiroshima region. An English-language version book with co-author Rick Marshall, Running with Cosmos Flowers, will be published by Pelican press in fall 2014.  

Shizumi is also the founder of Shizumi Kodomo (children) Dance Troupe in Washington, D.C. 


Supporters

  • National Geographic Society 
  • All Souls Unitarian Church 
  • Lumina Studio Theater 
  • Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe 
  • Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation 
  • City of Hiroshima / Mayor of Hiroshima
  • United States-Japan Foundation
  • Susan Craven Nordeen
  • Paul and Jane Pfeiffer
  • Honkawa Elementary School and Alumni 
  • Hiroshima Film Commission 
  • Hiroshima / Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area 
  • Santa Barbara Toba Sister City Organization  


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