(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: THE FORGOTTEN BOMB offers many good arguments for nuclear disarmament but compromises its own position by including some very debatable material. First-time producer and director Stuart Overbey gives us the history of the nuclear bomb, harrowing victim accounts, and the testimony of experts, lead by George Schultz. His arguments are compelling and for the most part convincing. Some touches like humorous cartoon images seem ill-considered. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

First-time producer and director Stuart Overbey gives us a summary of the threat the world still suffers from nuclear weapons. He begins with the assumption that since the end of the Cold War, people around the world are less worried about the threat of nuclear weapons. That is arguably true, but his title certainly overstates the problem. Particularly in relations with Iran and North Korea with the use of nuclear weapons looms big among the world's fears. The nuclear bomb and the issues it raises have certainly not been forgotten and this film is a call to action to prevent the usage of nuclear weapons against people.

Our technology has reached a point that it is perfectly possible for the human race to destroy itself. THE FORGOTTEN BOMB is a survey of the dangers of nuclear war. Overbey begins in Japan at the Hiroshima Museum and gives eyewitness testimony of people who experienced first hand the horrors of nuclear warfare. As bad as he makes it sound, I had the feeling that the actual experience would have been more painful and devastating than his descriptions of people being vaporized. Indeed, before the film is over he will return to Japan for more descriptions and documentary footage of how terrible the effects of the first nuclear attack were one its survivors, and these accounts truly go beyond the stuff of nightmare.

Somehow Overbey's organization of his subject matter seems scattershot. He will talk about the pollution from the original Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. From there the film will go into 1950s Pacific nuclear testing. He will talk about the problems of nuclear waste. He will move on to times after the development of the bomb in which nuclear war almost started--as during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The progression seems to lack organization.

Frequently his expert witnesses do not seem to separate fact from conjecture. One interviewee states as fact that preventing John Kennedy's efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons was the motive for his assassination. Nobody knows that for certain. The film also tells us that the nuclear bombing of Japan was unnecessary as the Japanese were beaten and presumably invasion would have been unnecessary. The real reason the double bombing was, we are told, a demonstration for the Soviets. All of this is perfectly reasonable as hypothesis but is hardly established fact. Overbey finds it ridiculous that school children were taught in the 1950s use desks as protection against a nuclear blast. Actually, depending on the distance and force of the explosion the protection of a desk could have been the difference between life and death.

Overbey gives us a comparison of Japanese and United States museums' accounts of the story of the nuclear bomb. In Japan there is considerably more emphasis on the victims' experiences. In the United States one such museum seems to aim its discussion at a child's level intending to interest children in science. Overbey argues that the United States museum's approach is wrong, but it really is just trying to engage people in the science. Unless the United States is planning to abandon science altogether both approaches are valid.

None of this is to say that the issues raised by this film are not desperately vital to understand and to be concerned about. The film makes many important points that really need to be thought through. Nuclear proliferation is a very genuine threat to human survival. The inadequacy of our approaches for disposal of nuclear waste constitutes a very dangerous situation. Many of the topics raised are vital to consider and the problems need to be solved. But arguing whether the bombs should have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not accomplish much. The fact is the bombs actually were used and no argument can undo that fact. Overbey would have done well to cut out the non-productive material and concentrate on the issues that need immediate action.

THE FORGOTTEN BOMB focuses on many of the right issues at the right time, but it is at least in part the wrong film to bring those issues to public attention. I rate THE FORGOTTEN BOMB a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. The FORGOTTEN BOMB will be released on DVD January 17, 2012.

Film Credits:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper