I was able to catch up with Steve Nguyen and Choz Belen to talk about their film “HIBAKUSHA”. The animated film features Kaz Suyeishi, an 84 year old woman, who goes through her most vivid and horrific memories as a 17 year old Hiroshima student when the bomb dropped on her hometown on the morning of August 6, 1945.
Below are some questions both Steve and Choz answered regarding the film.
Why did you start this film?
Steve: The story was always in the back of my mind. It was always something I wanted to do since 2008 and I kind of formulated an idea around a really general script because the way that Kaz recalls 4 different incidents in her life which she always tells her audience when she lectures. I approached Choz in 2010 about a rough idea that I wanted to do something with that. Something very basic like take a recording of her voice and have him doodle around it. He would create an environment of her talking and be able to create a situation around that. Over the year, we were able to break it up and start a narrative and build an actual documentary. The goal after Aug 2011 was to make an actual movie instead of a web-series. Mainly, why I wanted to do this film was to get this story out there and to tell it in a way that no one has ever done it. And I love Chozs’ style and work. Friends and collaborators have praised his work and that’s how we got together and agreed to do this film.
Choz: This woman has dedicated her life after the bomb dropped to promoting this story of peace and having that. She has been going around giving talks but this seems like a great opportunity to spread her story.
Why did you choose ‘Hibakusha’ as the title of the film?
Steve: The reason why it’s title that is because when she was telling her story, this term came up 50-60 dozen times and she kept saying it like a repetitive thing and if you can take anything from the story—it would be to remember who these people were and what they stood for. Hibakusha is a term for people who have survived the bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They gave this term as a collective group of people who fought for something more than just survival for future generations to realize that we have to move beyond war and spread the message that an event like that should never happen again. If an event like this was to happen again—learn from history. And that’s really why the title means so much. The term Hibakusha doesn’t just apply to her, but to so many others.
What can the viewers expect from the film?
The film starts out 40 years later and Kaz is being invited to do an interview by Channel 4 News and she has this journey to this television station and we flash back and forth as she is telling her story to the past and present. We get to follow her and her family from present day being interview to the past when she is actually going through it and the events that follows the bombings. These are based on true events. We try to do our best to paint the picture. We are here to convert it to a format for the audience.
This is a very different style of film—do you think that people would be able to accept it?
Choz: It’s something that everyone can enjoy. It’s animated to a point where it’s gritty and real and we shot real actors and we treated the footage and I hand animated all the different pieces. But, I think people will enjoy it. I think it will be hard to recreate the images we are trying to show, but it’s going to give people a different feel than what people have seen before. I think the imagery will complement her story she is trying to tell.
What did u want your audience to get away with the story?
Steve & Choz: We want to leave that up to the audience. We are storytellers. We are the messengers. It’s based off a true story and it is part of history. How people interpret what we’re doing here is up to them. I hope we were able to tell it the best way we could. This is about her survival and endurance. It speaks truth to who she is as a person. And that message speaks for itself.
Look for the short to hit selected theaters on September 28, 2012.