An engrossing documentary based on the prose-poem by Thomas Merton, about the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Spare voice-over narration quotes dispassionately from Merton's text throughout the film, as graphic images provide an unyielding display of the human face of war. This visually sophisticated presentation makes extensive use of home movies, period newsreels, still photographs, drawings, computer graphics, present-day interviews, and cel animation. Director Carey Schonegevel imbues Original Child Bomb with a contemporary immediacy by shuttling back and forth between different images from the past and present: scenes of daily life in Japan before the dropping of the atomic bomb are juxtaposed with images of its devastating aftermath; stock shots of the atomic tests in the Nevada desert are conjoined with an interview with an American veteran who witnessed that event; and a newsreel of Harry Truman's declaration of victory over Japan is contrasted with televised images of George W. Bush's response to the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Original Child Bomb begins as a dramatic retelling of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, and it concludes with a strong plea against nuclear proliferation. The filmmaker effectively brings this point home by focusing on the reactions of contemporary American youths. A roundtable discussion among teenagers focuses on America's responsibility for exploding nuclear weapons, and an animated sequence (by Emily Hubley and Jeremiah Dickey) depicts a young girl's discovery of the truth behind the ABC's of our nuclear age.
Carey Schonegevel grew up in South Africa and has lived and studied in the U.K. and New York. Her NYU thesis film, Heartspace, received the Carl Lerner award and has screened at numerous film festivals including Cinequest, Clermont-Ferrand, GenArt, UFVA's "Next Frame" (winning the Director's Choice Award), Rochester, Northampton, Austin, Cork, and Montreal, as well as in Africa at FESPACO and the Johannesburg Biennale. As a screenwriter, Schonegevel has cowritten Hotel Kisangani, a travel story about being where you are, The Devil Knows You're Dead, a dark comedy about the pursuit of happiness, and a tale of corporate espionage called Cash. She recently returned to South Africa where she has launched Hothouse, a Transatlantic feature film production partnership which will develop African stories for the big screen.