blown away by ‘the bomb

I came into Gotham Hall on the last night of Tribeca Film Festival, not knowing anything about the venue except that we would surrounded by 360° array of screens and knew barely enough about the film to feel anticipation for days. I had been told by the filmmaker that the bomb would be produced in the ‘qatsi’ style, which I assumed meant a collage of images, often time-lapsed, and set to a highly produced score. This should have been enough to prep for me for the ride I was about to go on. But it didn’t.

The moment the opening scenes started, I was immediately enthralled by an rhythmic electronic sonic onslaught synced brilliantly with soldiers from across the world parading in unison masses. This curation of colorful syncopated symmetric images got me immediately emotionally charged and made me recount a lot of recent thoughts around the concepts of conformity and loyalty that makes up organized militarism. The rest of the film continued on as the first qatsi-style film (or Baraka-style film) told with an electronic score. And for that matter, a fitting one for a night laced with explosions.

I spent the evening rapidly weaving around all kinds of thoughts and coming back to panoramic visceral spectacle when I felt like it. I felt the dilemma that scientists, engineers, and operators go through from devoting their lives to destruction. And I felt regret that Einstein felt writing his letter to FDR. And I felt the White House’s persistence on the Iran nuclear deal and how easily it could have been de-prioritized in their agenda.

Despite an evening of constant visual stimulation, I would have to say the film’s crowning moment was the Hiroshima explosion, in which the screen went completely black. I don’t know what the filmmakers were thinking, but I interpreted this as an homage to what the victims might have seen and felt during the last few seconds of their lives. It allowed me to recount a past visit to Manhattan’s Japan Society years ago browsing through art pieces of post-bomb trauma and recovery. I’m glad the film showed some of this art style against the band’s frequent ambient periods.

I left genuinely inspired by this team’s persistence of navigating stock footage after stock footage to tell this story. Though the images and video were (mostly) chronologically sequenced from atomic theory to experiment to construction to test to detonation to aftermath, what this team really did was create an outlet for me to figure out why we should disarm. Props to creators of the bomb for a thoughtful and holistic curation of image, venue, and live instrumentation.

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