As teachers know, some classroom materials invariably work, no matter the group of students. Barefoot Gen is one of them.
Barefoot Gen, a Japanese animated feature film, tells the story of Gen (pronounced with a hard “G”), a young boy who, along with his mother, survives the bombing of Hiroshima.
The story chronicles their struggles as they try to rebuild their lives from the bomb’s ashes. It is based on the critically acclaimed, semi-autobiographical Japanese comic book series Hadashi no Gen, by Keiji Nakazawa. Both the comic strip and the feature film oppose the Japanese government’s actions during World War II and include criticism of the intense poverty and suffering forced onto the Japanese people by their government’s war effort.
In the lesson, Haiku and Hiroshima: Teaching About the Atomic Bomb, Wayne Au describes how he introduces the film to high school students and how he follows up with haiku written by survivors of the bombings and students’ own writing.
Opening in the rundown city of Hiroshima, we witness the events leading up to the bombing through the eyes of Gen, a young boy growing up in post-war Japan. Fortunately when the bomb detonates, Gen is shielded by a stone wall. Others are not so lucky and are burned to death instantly by the 5000 degree heat flash. As Gen runs home to find his family, he sees victims of the bomb blast staggering around shocked and helpless in the rubble, their skin burnt and melting. When Gen reaches home he finds that his house has collapsed, trapping his father, brother and sister in the wreckage. Pulling his pregnant mother to safety, Gen watches as the rest of his family are burnt alive. What follows is a night-marish journey into the unimaginable horrors of atomic war and the struggle to survive in a place that has been destroyed by the most devastating device ever conceived by man. [Description from the distributor.]
Produced by Geneon. Japanese/English subtitles. Watch online at YouTube.