“Paper Lanterns” showcases powerful story of atomic bomb survivor in search of reconciliation and friendship

August 25th, 2022

On 16 August 2022, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Government of Japan co-hosted a film screening of the documentary film “Paper Lanterns”, which tells the inspiring story of Shigeaki Mori, a Japanese atomic bomb survivor from Hiroshima, who spent four decades searching for the identities of twelve American prisoners of war killed in the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and reaching out to their families to help them to put closure on their tragedy.

“Paper Lanterns” tells a story of reconciliation and friendship between former enemies as it follows Mr. Mori in showing two family members of the victims visiting Hiroshima where and how their loved ones spent their last days. It also brings back the horror of nuclear war as Mr. Mori and other witnesses account for the devastation they experienced.

The special screening event brought together diplomats, policy makers and civil society representatives participating to the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), taking place from 1 – 26 August at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. In her welcoming remarks, moderator Radha Day, Chief of the Regional Disarmament, Information and Outreach Branch at the Office for Disarmament Affairs, called the film screening a precious opportunity to raise awareness of the devastating impact of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

From left to right: Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Radha Day, Cheif of the Regional Disarmament, Information and Outreach Branch at the Office for Disarmament Affairs, Ambassador Ichiro Ogasawara, Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

“It’s amazing to me how much of the world does not know what happened in Hiroshima, the story that Mr. Mori is telling. I pray the whole world sees this because it does not need to be repeated by anyone,” High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said, citing the words of Mr. Ralph Neal, a nephew of one of the American prisoners of war who perished as a result of the atomic bombing. What makes this film so special, Ms. Nakamitsu added, is Mr. Mori’s immense dedication to his research and respect for each life taken by the atomic bomb, regardless of nationality. Mr. Mori’s story, she said, shows that the road to peace can start with the smallest of steps. To today’s youth, she sent a message that younger generations must take on the work that the “hibakusha” – survivors of the atomic bombings – have started, so that the world will continue to hear their testimonies and call for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Izumi Nakamitsu making opening remarks

Ambassador Ogasawara Ichiro, Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, expressed admiration for Mr. Mori’s enormous efforts in tracking the stories of the twelve American prisoners. Ambassador Ogasawara stressed that the documentary underscores that the world must never forget the devastation and destruction brought on by the use of a single nuclear weapon – an image he said he would keep in his mind throughout the duration of the NPT Review Conference.   

Ambassador Ogasawara making opening remarks
Diplomats, policy makers and civil society representatives gathered in the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations in New York for a special screening of the documentary film “Paper Lanterns”

Following the screening, the audience had an opportunity to hear from the film’s protagonist himself. Through a pre-recorded video message, Mr. Mori expressed his hope that the documentary makes viewers aware of the tragedy of war and inspire them to take action in cognizance of the importance of peace. “War brings destruction and hatred, and peace brings prosperity and happiness,” he said, adding that “This film was produced to honor the memories of the victims of the atomic bombing and to aspire to peace.”

Video message from Mr. Shigeaki Mori – the film’s protagonist

The film’s director, Mr. Barry Frechette, also shared a video message, in which he explained that the most important thing for all involved was to make sure this story was shared with the world before it was too late to hear Mr. Mori’s and the families’ first-hand testimonies. It is always “ordinary people” that make a difference, he said, impressing upon the audience that anyone can make a difference.

The film’s director Mr. Barry Frechette sent a video message to the audience

Ms. Nobuko Saito Cleary, co-producer of the film, stressed the importance of sharing Mr. Mori’s message with young people, nothing that students don’t know as much about the effects of atomic bombing in Hiroshima, and that it is now her mission to share this story in hopes of educating younger generations. She observed that Mr. Mori’s personal experience and remarkable achievements illustrate the importance of every individual doing their part in for peace in the world.

“Paper Lanterns” co-producer Ms. Nobuko Saito Cleary

Finally, co-producer Mr. Peter Grilli stressed the need to eliminate nuclear weapons once and for all, noting their catastrophic destructiveness for humanity and the planet. He called on the audience to take Mr. Mori’s message to heart and do all they can to ensure the world will never again suffer the destruction and devastation from these heinous weapons.

“Paper Lanterns” co-producer Mr. Peter Grilli