In college, I studied nuclear disarmament for a while, even planned on devoting my life to it. Then I started having these nightmares, which invariably ended with mushroom clouds sprouting everywhere. Luckily, some people are still willing to think about the unthinkable ' Physicians for Social Responsibility, for example, a national organization of health-care professionals who think there's something sick about our continued reliance on nuclear weapons. They're also concerned about nuclear power and global warming and overpopulation and anything else that jeopardizes the planet's well-being. Toward that end, the organization's Madison chapter has put together a film series, "The Global Nuclear Threat in Film," which starts Wednesday, Sept. 18, and runs through Oct. 16. Tired of Hollywood's version in movies like Broken Arrow and The Peacemaker? Here's your chance to let reality slap you in the face.
Speaking of "broken arrows" (the military's designation for nuclear bombs that are misplaced, involved in collisions or accidentally dropped from aircraft), Peter Kuran's Nuclear 911 (Sept. 25, UW Memorial Union's Fredric March Play Circle) is enough to make anybody push the panic button. Though souped up with Hollywood production values and narrated by Adam "Holy H-Bomb, Batman!" West, this hour-long documentary makes the entirely credible argument that, when it comes to nuclear fusion, accidents will happen. So does John Sorensen's more modestly produced Road to Yucca Mountain (Oct. 10, Electric Earth), in which Sorensen talks to folks along the route to the fed's proposed nuclear-waste storage site in Nevada. Anand Patwardhan's War and Peace (Oct. 16, Fredric March Play Circle) and Pervez Hoodbhoy's Pakistan and India: Under the Nuclear Shadow (Oct. 10, Electric Earth) take a look at the nuclear club's most recent saber rattlers. And Arthur MacCaig's I Am Become Death: They Made the Bomb (Sept. 25, Fredric March Play Circle) revisits that old creation myth, the Manhattan Project.
The wild card in the deck is War Photographer (Oct. 2, Fredric March Play Circle), which profiles photojournalist James Nachtwey's career-long journey through all the devastation in the world not caused by nuclear physics. And the mild card ' or is it the joker? ' is a feature-length cartoon called When the Wind Blows (Sept. 18, Fredric March Play Circle, 7:30 p.m.). Set in a cozy cottage somewhere in the English countryside, this 1986 "comedy" features an elderly couple who prepare for a global exchange of nuclear weapons as if it were a summer vacation, following the government's instructions to a tee (not to mention a tea). "Mind you, don't scratch the polish," the Mrs. says to her hubby as he prepares an "inner-core refuge." It's all a great joke on the British people's fabled ability to carry on, but it's also a reminder of how hard it is to think about the unthinkable.
This film series should help.