Setsuko Thurlow film attracts large audiences, will be put on screens nationwide starting in April

by Kyoko Niiyama, Staff Writer

“The Vow from Hiroshima,” a film depicting the life of Setsuko Thurlow, 89, an A-bomb survivor living in Canada, continues its run at the Hatchoza movie theater, in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward. The movie had drawn more than 1,000 viewers as of February 15. Since reaction has far exceeded expectations, the decision was made to show the film in locations throughout Japan.

The 82-minute movie tells the story of Ms. Thurlow’s life, including her experiences in the atomic bombing she experienced in Hiroshima at age 13, difficulties she went through in the antinuclear movement, and efforts she made for establishment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The film’s producer is Mitchie Takeuchi, 65, a second-generation A-bomb survivor originally from Hiroshima’s Minami Ward who now lives in New York City.

The movie’s initial release was January 22, the date when the TPNW entered into effect. The film was scheduled to run through February 4, but it was rescheduled to run through February 18 with one screening a day. Some screenings have attracted more people than the theater can accommodate. Kentaro Kuramoto, 43, employee of Johakyu, the company that manages the theater, said, “I’m surprised that a documentary film has attracted more than 1,000 viewers in such a short period of time, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.” The film’s popularity brought about the company’s sudden decision to rerun the film at some point in the future, although that timing is as yet undecided.

A working group related to the film has been formed of Ms. Thurlow’s old friends and people who sympathize with her unwavering faith in the antinuclear cause. The group’s members have been promoting the film by distributing flyers. At the start, women about the same age as Ms. Thurlow accounted for a majority of the film’s viewership, but audiences have become more diverse and now include young people, children and their parents, as well as the elderly with their grandchildren.

Starting in April, the film will be shown onscreen in Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, among other cities. Ms. Thurlow commented, “I would be happy if people could learn about my life and think, ‘I want to take action to realize a society where human rights and the dignity of human life are respected.’”

(Originally published on February 16, 2021)