Japan finally screens ‘Oppenheimer’, with trigger warnings, unease in Hiroshima

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The long-awaited premiere of “Oppenheimer” in Japan finally occurred after an eight-month delay, marked by a controversial grassroots marketing campaign and apprehensions regarding its nuclear-themed narrative in the nation that endured the only atomic bombings in history.


Christopher Nolan’s cinematic masterpiece, honored with the prestigious Best Picture award at the recent Academy Awards, delves into the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist pivotal in the development of the atomic bomb, captivating audiences worldwide and accumulating nearly $1 billion in global box office revenue.


Despite Japan’s significant status as a key market for Hollywood productions, the film had been conspicuously absent from screens until now, a poignant fact given the profound impact of nuclear devastation on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War Two, claiming over 200,000 lives.


Expressing admiration for the film’s accolades, Hiroshima resident Kawai, 37, voiced reservations about its portrayal of the atomic bomb, reflecting the sentiments of many who found it emotionally challenging to watch, especially given personal connections to the affected regions.


Despite being an avid fan of Nolan’s oeuvre, Kawai, a public servant, attended the opening screening at a theater near Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome with mixed feelings, questioning whether Japanese audiences should prioritize viewing the film.


Social media posts revealed warnings at Tokyo cinemas, cautioning viewers about potentially distressing nuclear imagery, highlighting the sensitivity surrounding the subject matter.


Upon watching the film, retired Hiroshima resident Agemi Kanegae, 65, acknowledged its merits but admitted discomfort with certain scenes, such as Oppenheimer’s trial in the United States.


The film’s journey to Japan was marked by controversy, with initial exclusion from the global release schedule by Universal Pictures, eventually rectified by Japanese distributor Bitters End, which scheduled its release post-Oscars.

Atomic bomb survivor Teruko Yahata, 86, expressed eagerness for the film’s release, hoping it would reignite discussions on nuclear disarmament, while acknowledging empathy for Oppenheimer’s complex role in history.


Echoing this sentiment, 19-year-old student Rishu Kanemoto, who watched the film upon its Japanese premiere, recognized the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while contemplating Oppenheimer’s dual identity as both perpetrator and casualty of war.

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