Promoting nuclear disarmament through film: UNODA’s Nuclear Disarmament Documentary Film Series

May 29th, 2015

A documentary film series on nuclear disarmament, hosted in May by the Information and Outreach Branch (IOB) of the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA), proved both thought-provoking and inspiring. The series, held on the margins of the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, complemented the formal discussions on disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation underway at the Conference.

Director of “What Happened that Day,” Massaki Tanabe discusses his film with the audience.

IOB carefully selected four films that adopt different approaches to nuclear disarmament to highlight the complexity of the issue. Peter Anthony’s documentary, ‘The Man Who Saved the World’, opened the film series by dramatically depicting the vulnerability of nuclear weapons to human error. This reality was explored further in the film ‘Countdown to Zero’ by Lucy Walker, which is structured around the notion that nuclear security is prone to “accident, miscalculation and madness”. Robert Frye’s sobering documentary, ‘In My Lifetime’ challenged viewers to question whether it is possible to rid the world of the most destructive weapons by taking on the complex realities of the nuclear world. Another film by Mr. Masaaki Tanabe, ‘What Happened that Day’, left the audience with a deeper emotional connection to atomic bomb survivors in Japan known as hibakusha. Mr. Tanabe, himself a hibakusha, used computer generated graphics to represent what happened on the day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The premiere screening of Mr. Tanabe’s film received special attention from Japanese media.

Several factors enhanced the impact of these exceptional films. First, the series attracted a diverse audience. Given that the films were screened throughout the NPT Review Conference, NGO representatives and diplomats who are involved in current nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts had the opportunity to consider the issue from different perspectives. Moreover, the screenings were open to the general public, which provided young people and citizens with an opportunity to engage with one of the most important – and least understood – security issues facing our world.

“This was a wonderful film series, enriched by the presence of the directors and producers who introduced their own works,” said Soo Hyun Kim, Political Affairs Officer from ODA. “Not only did this create a buzz about the screenings, but it also gave the audience unique insights into the films and how they were made. After the films were shown and during the Q & A, some audience members commented that they had been deeply moved by the films and a number of people said that they had been inspired to tell others about the need for nuclear disarmament”.


NPT films

Article by Sarah McIntosh