Two sobering yet inspirational documentaries are perfectly paired on Hiroshima No Pika
, a superb DVD for all-ages viewing. The art of Toshi and Iri Maruki is horrifying--they focus exclusively on people after atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945--so the film may be somewhat disturbing for very young children, but the whole point of the Marukis' art is to never forget the horrors that human beings have wrought upon each other. Married for decades and collaborating as "rivals" whose art represents a formal clash of their highly different techniques, the Marukis create huge murals depicting the aftermath of the bombings (or the rape of Nangking, or the Nazi Holocaust), and as Iri Maruki (Japan's most celebrated illustrator of children's books) describes it, "when I draw people who are being slaughtered, I also feel as if I'm being slaughtered." Her remarkable response to this raw emotion is to draw "with kindness" toward the dead and dying, while Toshi alters her watercolor illustrations with his own smearings of India ink, transforming the work into something even darker and deeper in meaning.
The 25-minute Hiroshima No Pika (2005) is a moving rendition of Iri's award-winning children's book about a young girl and her parents in the aftermath of Hiroshima. Susan Sarandon (who provided anti-nuclear activism web-links for the DVD's bonus features) narrates the tale with subtle, heart-rending perfection. Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima is an hour-long, Oscar®-nominated documentary from 1986 that provides an in-depth portrait of the Marukis and their methods of creating some of the world's most hauntingly powerful artwork. The humanity that shines through--and the Marukis' passionate anti-war statements--makes these two films highly worthwhile for classes, discussion groups, or anyone seeking to appreciate these uniquely creative people. --Jeff Shannon