Documentary of Setsuko Thurlow to be shown once again in Hiroshima: Interview with Mitchie Takeuchi, film’s producer

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

Expectations for wider audience including both young and old

Mitchie Takeuchi, 65, producer of the documentary film “The Vow from Hiroshima” and resident of New York City, is a second-generation A-bomb survivor from Hiroshima. Prior to her film’s Japan-wide release, Ms. Takeuchi returned to Japan for a visit. During a self-quarantine aimed to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus, the Chugoku Shimbun had a chance to interview her online to ask her thoughts about the film.

What was the feedback at your film’s advance screening in Hiroshima during January and February?
I heard that not only older people but also many younger viewers were at the movie theater, and that quite a few shed tears while watching. I had a sense that the age-range of the audience was broad. From the film, viewers got a glimpse of Ms. Thurlow’s uncompromising attitude in her call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as of her day-to-day life including her feelings about her hometown of Hiroshima and her husband, which may have allowed them to identify their own life in hers.

The previous screening was held when the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into force.

About 10 years ago, when I was asked informally to do interpretation of A-bomb survivors’ testimonies of their experiences, I first met Setsuko Thurlow, who had graduated from Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School, my alma mater. Attracted by her humanity, I began filming the documentary about her. In 2017, Ms. Thurlow received the Nobel Peace Prize as a representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and this year, the TPNW came into force. With all that, this film has become timely.

The film also featured how, with support from Ms. Thurlow, you went about learning more about the A-bombing experience of your grandfather, the first director of the former Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital, and that of your mother.

Through Ms. Thurlow, I became more conscious about my identity as a second-generation A-bomb survivor. Her powerful appeal is impressive, but she also is a wonderful listener who carefully communicates with others by heeding their stories. I believe the film will convey to the audience that the basis of her anti-nuclear efforts was formed from her A-bombing experience and the attitudes she developed as a result of her professional career as a social worker.

Are you concerned at all about the screenings held outside Hiroshima Prefecture, where citizens might have less interest in the issue of nuclear weapons?
I received good feedback about the film from audiences in the United States. This film is truly a Hiroshima story. At the same time, I would like viewers to realize the significant power of a diverse group of people including women and minorities. Many non-whites and sexual minorities are driving ICAN’s efforts. In addition, because I am based in the United States, women in the alumni association of my alma mater took the lead and worked hard to bring about screenings of the film in Hiroshima on my behalf.

Your movie is being released amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has turned the world upside down.

Since last year, everyone’s concept of “safety” has crumbled at its very foundation. We have become aware that there is no such thing as an issue that might damage others but never affect us. In the same way, the issue of nuclear weapons, which can cause damage indiscriminately, is never just someone else’s problem.

More than 500,000 people have already died from COVID-19 in the United States, and we were forced to go through strict lockdowns. However, vaccines will reach all New Yorkers soon enough. Because I received two vaccinations already, I was able to return to Japan. I am scheduled to deliver a speech to an online audience on April 17, and as soon as I finish my self-quarantine period since my return to Japan, I hope that I can share my feelings about the film in person with many different people.

Mitchie Takeuchi
Born in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, she graduated from Hiroshima Jogakuin High School and Wagner College in the United States. After working in a major advertising agency, she founded Arc Media, Inc., offering business support for Japanese companies entering the U.S. market. She now lives in New York City.

(Originally published on April 13, 2021)