Regret to Inform

It seems odd that a movie about the need to educate people would be urged not to find an audience—by its own publicist, yet.

"He'd really sort of rather not have it be advertised or promoted in any big way," says Riverview Theater owner and manager Loren Williams of White Light/Black Rain, a documentary about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War II in 1945. "But he does want it to appear on our schedule."

Williams screened the film, which premiered at Sundance in January, six times over the course of three days last week, as per the publicist's request. "He needs seven three-day runs in cities across the country, minimum of two shows per day," says Williams, "in order to qualify for an Oscar nomination."

The Riverview has similarly obliged this publicist before, screening Rory Kennedy's Ghosts of Abu Ghraib three days last month; this week it's doing likewise for To Die in Jerusalem. Both of these docs, like White Light/Black Rain, are represented by HBO.

Last Thursday about a dozen ticket buyers turned up for each showing of White Light/Black Rain, which begins with interviews of young people on the streets of Hiroshima, the filmmaker quizzing them on what major event took place on August 6, 1945. Shockingly, not one of the kids can answer correctly.

Perhaps more Minneapolitans will be enlightened to the film's depiction of the horrors of nuclear war—but not until August 6, 2007. "He isn't interested in attendance numbers," says Williams of the publicist. "He wants to make sure that the big splash is made when the movie airs on HBO."

Why we fight, indeed. Only in America would an atomic blast be subsumed by a big splash.