Review: Richland (Tribeca Festival 2023)


Title: Richland
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Irene Lusztig
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins

What It Is: A documentary catches up with the inhabitants of a small town where a nuclear company was based. Growing up during a period of racial tension and economic profit, the townspeople reflect either extremely negatively or positively toward the production of the weapons that would ultimately wipe out around 80,000 Japanese people in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks. The town struggles with its quietly violent history involving the bombs and the colonization of Native land, as they fight and stand for the land they have long sworn to protect.

What We Think: In light of Oppenheimer and the average person having more and more access to historical information as of late, ressurecting and addressing the issues surrounding the many sides and nuances of the subject, I’m proud and so grateful to have seen this film. A genuine, moving collection of voices that reveals more about American culture than many Americans care to or can acknowledge. Through the lens of the townspeople, Natives, and a survivor of the bombings, we can try to understand the strange liminality of humanity in the face of war. It’s great to see those still fighting for awareness, exercising their voices and rights, but terrifying to see those continuing to try to justify the corporative and fatal acts delivered on behalf of the United States government. You’ll often hear pro-patriot, pro-war rhetoric used by average people as a means to defend the idea that developing nuclear weapons was just in the name of science, the means of producing and supporting the nuclear industry is economically beneficial and that the bombs had to be dropped as a means of protecting our people. You hear this over and over again, and as Americans, that’s what we’ve been raised to believe in order to crowd and make smaller the voices that deserve to be heard. It’s refreshing to hear retellings and opinions from all sides and angles to get the full picture, though at times it is hard to hear and even harder not to judge, but completely necessary. This film doesn’t set out to villainize the average person, but rather implies (as it is known) there is a much, much larger problem and entity causing people to follow the pro-war mindset so blindly and even cheerfully. That’s also to say to hear the voices of survivors and Natives, whose land was taken away from them only for that land to transform into something dark and evil, elevated. Every voice has importance in coloring history and making the viewer understand how things like the bystander effect can take on a massive scale and how deeply the propaganda, war-inspired “good-versus-evil” mindset has rooted itself in people.

Our Grade: B+, A film that will linger with you, as do the effects of the creation of the bomb. Daring and quietly devastating, this is a film that should be shown in schools, shown to as many as possible, as it is so far removed from promotion and propaganda, letting its many featured voices speak for themselves. As someone, like any American, who grew up a firm, dedicated little patriot in the United States, I have grown up to patriotically continue to champion films that bravely challenge these unjustifiable, unforgivable acts of manipulation and means of control, given that the information is there. It’s a difficult reality that we still need to confront today as the victims of war and colonization still struggle with its effects today.

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