Mourning has broken

5th July 1996 at 01:00
Hiroshima - A Mother's Prayer, Video and information booklet by the Hiroshima City Council, Free on request from the Promotions Department, Aberdeen City Council, Town House, Aberdeen AB1 9FY, Age range 16 plus

Some of the scenes", warns the booklet which accompanies this video, "could disturb or cause physical or emotional upset among some children". This is an understatement. The children, and even the teacher, will - and should - be seriously disturbed by this video.

How much can children stand to see? I have always believed that pupils are emotionally stronger than we think, and have shown them quite shocking materials. But you should not use this video in the classroom without watching it first, and thinking seriously about whether it is suitable for your pupils.

Hiroshima - A Mother's Prayer begins innocuously enough, with an old woman laying flowers on her son's grave, and a fairly standard account of the dropping of the bomb. But the video was produced by Hiroshima City and the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, and it pulls no punches. Wounds and injuries are shown in graphic detail: a little girl with hands and feet that seem to have melted, a boy with lips eaten away by radiation sickness, doctors pulling bandages off burned skin. Viewers are told that "maggots bred in the festering wounds". They watch while a doctor opens with forceps the eyelids of a woman who lost an eye in the blast.

The video shows how victims suffered later from radiation sickness, and then from leukaemia. Then it presents Hiroshima as a centre in the campaign against nuclear weapons. These later scenes are not as graphic, but - showing the mourning of the bereaved - they are emotionally harrowing.

The booklet begins: "This video presents a rational, argued case against the retention of nuclear weapons". It does nothing of the sort. It is highly emotive, harrowing and upsetting. The horror is the argument. "To remember Hiro-shima is to abhor nuclear war," said Pope John Paul.

One way to use the video with older secondary pupils might be to watch the video first, and ask them to write about whether they think the atom bomb should have been dropped.

Future lessons could then study the wider context of the bomb, look at the arguments for and against, and form a more balanced, argued case. Pupils could then compare their considered opinions against their initial reaction.

The accompanying booklet offers a number of issues for further research, and ideas for discussion. But, quite frankly, after watching the video, there is nothing to say.

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