Friday, January 13, 2012

On DVD: Everything's nuclear in Overbey's and Ryan's doc -- THE FORGOTTEN BOMB

No, this is not the tale of a distantly remembered, really bad movie. THE FORGOTTEN BOMB, the 2010 documentary by Bud Ryan and Stuart Overbey, takes us back to the beginnings of nuclear weaponry through to its current (and unfortunately thriving) state. The movie is part history (told closer to correct than we Americans have usually been given it), part overview, part warning and even, against all odds, part celebration of what human beings might do -- if only they united to some extent and put their minds and hearts to the task of de-nuclearizing the world.

Ms Overbey (shown at left) and Mister Ryan (below, left) have done a pretty sharp job of combining the above topics into a consistently engrossing whole, even if you (as did I) already know much of what they are telling us. Unlike 2010's other anti-nuclear documentary, the loud, hectoring and repetitive  Countdown to Zero, this five-minute-longer movie (94 against Countdown's 89) is much quieter, thoughtful and inclusive of other opinions besides those of its makers. In addition, unlike Countdown, which strove to scare us by describing a future nuclear catastrophe, The Forgotten Bomb goes back to history and shows -- and tells (toward the end of the film, a survivor recites her story, one of the most harrowing accounts I've yet heard) -- what Hiroshima and Nagasaki were like.

The movie comes down squarely on the side of those who say that the droppings of the atomic bombs were unnecessary because America had already effectively won the war in the Pacific, and that the widespread holocaust resulting from the bombs and its horrific after-effects were in no way justified. On the other side, Dr. Harold Agnew -- a Manhattan Project scientist and former Director at the Los Alamos lab -- tells us that when he visited Japan and was confronted by two Japanese survivors of the bombings who wanted an apology, his only words to them were "Remember Pearl Harbor." As though the 2,402 military lives lost at Pearl Harbor justified the killing of between 150,000 and 246,000 Japanese civilians by our twin bombs (and that's the death toll for only the first day).

Overbey and Ryan cover everything from the difference between how Japanese and American museums explain the bombing to chats with civilian and military regarding today's nuclear energy and just how safe it currently is (not).  The film was shot prior to the latest tsunami-led nuclear disaster in Japan, but the moviemakers offer of plenty of preceding disasters, including the ongoing one involving where to place the forever-toxic waste that nuclear energy produces. Because both the filmmakers and those they interview are so intelligent, well-spoken and not given to exaggeration,what they're telling us might almost seem small potatoes -- except for the many details:  in uranium mining country, rabbits with tumors and bald sheep; the "kick and roll" technology of dealing with radioactive waste; and especially how, when our crew tries to get interviews with New Mexico's public officials -- senators, congressmen, even the Department of Energy itself, they get nowhere at all.

Want to add a bit more power and ballast to the Kennedy Assassination theories? Try linking, as one of our talking heads does here, JFK's 1963 address at American University in DC regarding his stand against nuclear energy with his untimely demise -- similar, our man says, to Martin Luther King's famous address on taking a stand against the war in Vietnam, soon after which came his assassination.  Mutually Assured Deterrence (MAD, a fine acronym) is still with us, the movie points out, and by the close of the film, you will have a difficult time not believing that America -- hell, the whole world -- is in love with and worships Thanatos. Good luck.  Although I must say that the penultimate words of one talking head (John Dear, a Jesuit priest and author) about real Christianity brought sudden tears to my eyes. And I not ever religious. But what this man has to say hit a nerve, I guess.

The Forgotten Bomb, from Cinema Libre Studio, makes its DVD debut this coming Tuesday, January 17 -- for sale only at this point, as neither Netflix nor Blockbuster plans to carry it.  Perhaps it'll be stream-able some day soon. Hope so, for this one deserves a wide audience.

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