The Last Day: a shocking video of a nuclear holocaust

'Don't touch that dial! News at 11. Flash: Iran strikes Israel with nuclear weapons.' ...Relax, it's only fiction, but for how long?

In the tradition of Orson Welles' famed 1938 'War of the Worlds' broadcast that shocked thousands with its verisimilitude, comes a short video from Israel that picks up on the fear of a nuclear holocaust originating in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Last Day, directed by Ronen Barany, has an immediacy that surpasses many recent Hollywood disaster or apocalypse films.  The threat to the world today is immediate, just as it was at the time of Welles' broadcast, of war emanating from a totalitarian regime.

In 1938, the world was approaching a titanic struggle between Germany, Japan, Italy (and Russia, for a time), against the United States, Great Britain and the rest of Europe. War was already afoot in Spain, for example, where National Socialist Germany and Fascist Italy sided with Francisco Franco against Republican Spain. And in Asia, Japan had invaded Manchuria and set about its preparations for a greater war. The United States was woefully unprepared, as was made evident later during the 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor. But Americans could hear Adolf Hitler's raving speeches, the chanting adulation of German Nazi crowds, and of news that Jews, intellectuals, dissenting clergy and others were already being targetted for 'special measures.'

In Orson Welles' telling of H.G. Wells' science-fiction horror story of alien invaders attacking the United States, the skilled actor used radio so effectively that hundreds of listeners actually believed the country was under attack.  The climate of uncertainty, as the United States had not really yet emerged from the Great Depression, that was exacerbated by reports of Hitler's killing of his enemies and Nazi preparations for war, had the country on edge. 

Now, at a time of economic uncertainty, when the U.S. is engaged in war against enemies around the world. this short film 'The Last Day' comes to rouse us to the challenge faced by the world in a nuclear-equipped Iran. The prospect of a conflict with the Islamic regime of Iran, which is making economic and military pacts with countries such as Venezuela and Brazil, is jarring for Americans but perhaps not so immediate as it is for the people of Israel. Tiny Israel, surrounded by enemies, is within reach of Iranian missiles. And should those missiles become armed with atomic warheads, the unthinkable could become a reality. And like many Americans in 1938, there are some today that have concluded that such a war would remain distant. But Americans would learn to their sorrow in the 1940s that war came to them, and their island-like continent is not an effective insulation from the rest of the world.

The film, like Welles' 1938 broadcast, has a verisimilitude that comes from what appears to be a video shot with a hand-held camcorder. It begins with a slide, purportedly made by the United Nation, that says it was found following the "first Iranian attack" in February 2013.  It then segues into the car of an Israeli couple speaking excitedly as they drive on a crowded highway leading out of Jerusalem. With English sub-titles, the viewer learns in the five-minute short that Israel is under attack, communications are down, and the Israeli president and cabinet have been taken to safety. 

It is then that all hell breaks loose. The viewer is warned: this is a shocking film, but one that deserves to be watched.  Just as listeners sat glued to their chairs in 1938 as with horror they heard a fiction that would only become real within a year, viewers should see 'The Last Day' and learn just what are the stakes of  allowing a  lawless Islamic republic grasp the tools of nuclear annihilation to devastate a holy land held dear by all Christians and Jews. One holocaust is more than enough: let us pray that yet another one is not about to come.



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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