An upcoming movie on the bombing of Hiroshima has recently drawn controversy for its casting of Evan Rachel Wood, a white actress, in a lead role. The film, titled "One Thousand Paper Cranes," tells the true story of Sadako Sasaki. Sasaki was a young girl who survived Hiroshima but was later diagnosed with leukemia due to exposure to radiation from the atomic bomb. She is most well-known for her goal to fold 1,000 paper cranes before her death. Sasaki's story highlights the aftereffects of Hiroshima, and many have questioned why this story must be shared with that of a white woman.
Evan Rachel Wood was cast to play Eleanor Coerr, who wrote the children's book "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes." The film, however, is actually based on Takayuki Ishii's "One Thousand Paper Cranes: The Story of Sadako and the Children's Peace Statue." According to director Richard Raymond, Coerr's story will also be included in the film, his reasoning being that Coerr "brought the story to international fame, further cementing Sadako's legacy of peace and hope through the powerful symbol she created." He also stated that the film has the support of Sasaki's family, and the "entire creative team has gone to great lengths to protect the authenticity of Sadako's story and everything she represents."
Raymond's response does not quite answer the question of why Sasaki's story must be shared with a white woman. While Eleanor Coerr certainly had a role in bringing attention to this story, it does not seem necessary to bring her story into the film, especially when the film isn't even based on her book. About the film, sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen stated that "This type of story typically does not honor the victims because, like 'The Help,' the white female author's voice becomes privileged over those of the women of color she tried to capture." The inclusion of a white woman's story in the narrative of a person of color isn't entirely new in Hollywood, and it certainly doesn't sit well for a story as important as that of Sadako Sasaki. It's also worth noting that Coerr's "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" is a fictional retelling and is not entirely faithful to Sasaki's true story.
The true question that needs to be asked, then, is not why Rachel Evan Wood is in the film, but rather why Sasaki can't be the center and sole lead of a film that's supposed to tell her story. In a broader sense, why can't a person of color be the lead of their own story, and why do people of color need to have a white figure inserted into their narratives?
If Richard Raymond truly wishes to honor Sasaki and other victims of Hiroshima, then she should be the sole focus of the film. Sadako Sasaki's story is not one that should be shared with a white woman, nor does it need a white lead in order to tell the story well.