‘Atomic Mom’ to be Screened during No Nukes Forum Set for May 17 at UCLA


In “Atomic Mom,” filmmaker M.T. Silvia, left, meets with A-bomb survivor Emiko Okada in Hiroshima.

On Monday, May 17, the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center For Japanese Studies at UCLA will host a symposium on the concerns of nuclear weapons global legacy, called “Beyond Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Future of Anti-nuclear Weapons Movement.”

Organized by Prof. Mariko Tamanoi, the event includes a sneak preview of “Atomic Mom,” a documentary about an American woman and a Japanese woman and their opposite experiences with the atomic bomb, along with the film’s director, M.T. Silvia.

“Atomic Mom” reveals the intimate story about one of the few female scientists working on the testing of the atom bomb in the early 1950’s. After decades of silence–and a crisis of conscious prompted by the probing of her filmmaker daughter, she shares her story and is offered an olive branch by a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing.

Pauline Silvia, the filmmaker’s mother, was exposed to five detonations when she was a scientist at the Nevada Test Site. After decades of silence, Pauline, in a crisis of consciousness, reveals some of the grim and dark secrets of the U.S. atomic testing program. In the attempt to reconcile with her own mother’s past, M.T. travels to Japan where she meets Emiko Okada, a Hiroshima survivor. After knowing Pauline’s story, Emiko folds an origami peace crane to donate to her. This gift encloses a beautiful and potent offer of peace.

There will also be a presentation by Steve Leeper, chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. Since moving to Hiroshima in 1984, he has interpreted A-bomb survivor testimonies and translated many documents for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. In 2002, he started as North American Coordinator of Mayors for Peace. Having served as an executive advisor of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation since 2003, he was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation in April 2007.

As to why she decided to organize this symposium, Tamanoi said, “Before we fear our future, we have to look at the present. The victims of radiation are not only in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but everywhere in the world, among atomic soldiers, uranium miners, nuclear weapon industrial workers, and the victims of depleted uranium munitions. These people, single individuals, need our attention now.”

Tamanoi, a professor at the UCLA Anthropology Department, is author of “Under the Shadow of Nationalism: Politics and Poetics of Rural Japanese Women” (1998) and “Memory Maps: The State and Manchuria in Postwar Japan” (2009) as well as editor of “Crossed Histories: Manchuria in the Age of Empire,” which has been translated to Japanese.

Silvia’s documentary, “Picardy Drive” (2002) aired on KQED’s ImageMaker series, FreeSpeechTV and is available on home video. She has worked professionally as an engineer in the film industry for over twenty years at both Skywalker Sound and Pixar Animation Studios. Among many mainstream film credits, she has also worked as a recording engineer on 1990’s “Wild at Heart.”

The symposium will be held at the UCLA Faculty Center, 480 Charles Young Dr. East, in the Hacienda Room, from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission by free for UCLA faculty, students and staff and by invitation for outside guests. To request an invitation, please e-mail [email protected], or call (310) 825-8681.


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