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Film “Nuclear Savage” exposes horror of Marshall Islands atomic bomb tests

Documentary brings a dark side of nuclear past to light By Adrian Gomez / Asst. Arts Editor, Reel NM on Sun, Nov 11, 2012 Adam Jonas Horowitz began his journey as a filmmaker more than 25 years ago. The Santa Fe resident traveled to the Marshall Islands in 1986 on a whim. What he discovered there was shocking.

The former American military colony in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
was chock-full of radioactive coconuts, leaking nuclear waste
repositories and densely populated slums.

All of these were the direct result of when the United States
conducted 67 atomic and hydrogen bomb tests in the Marshall Islands in
the 1950s. The project vaporized islands and exposed entire
populations to fallout. The islanders on Rongelap received near-fatal
doses of radiation from one test and were then moved onto a highly
contaminated island to serve as human guinea pigs for 30 years, in an
experiment conceived at Los Alamos.

If you go
WHAT: “Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1″
WHEN: 4, 6, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13
WHERE: Guild Cinema, 3405 E. Central

“These are stories that we don’t really hear about,” Horowitz
explains. “This trip opened my eyes to another part of history, and it
all came at the hands of our government. It seemed like it would make
a great film.”

After making his first film on the subject, Horowitz decided to travel
back to the Marshall Islands in 2006 and dive deeper into the people’s
stories. The result is his 86-minute documentary, “Nuclear Savage: The
Islands of Secret Project 4.1.” The film was partially funded by PBS
and is slated for a 2013 air date.

It will screen at the Guild Cinema on Tuesday, Nov. 13, where Horowitz
will participate in a question-and-answer session after each

He says he’s been living in northern New Mexico for more than 25 years
and often was around Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“I always felt like I had nuclear weapons in my backyard,” he
explains. “I wanted to find some story to tell about nuclear weapons
that hadn’t been told. When I found out about this, I knew that this
was one story to be told. It’s captivating about how these people have
lived with this mess that was created around them.”

A U.S. government scientist examines a Marshall Islands nuclear
fallout victim from a 1954 hydrogen bomb test. The islanders were kept
on a contaminated island for almost 30 years to study the effects of
fallout radiation on humans.
He says the Marshall Islands represent paradise, and it’s an
archetypal view of paradise. “You imagine blue skies and clear water,”
he says. “But when I arrived it was so much worse than I dreamed.”

Upon arriving 20 years after his first visit, Horowitz says, he
thought the film was just going to be an update of his first film. But
what he found were stories of human radiation experiments.

“I didn’t believe it and was quite skeptical of the stories I was
being told,” he says. “But I started to meet a lot of survivors of the
experiments and the story became stronger. I think in northern New
Mexico, we get a pretty rose-colored view of the labs. We are taught
that the labs created peace and kept the Soviet Union at bay. We’re
getting a very sanitized view, and I found the history is so much
darker than we were ever taught.”

The documentary has been on the film festival circuit for the past
year and has been garnering various accolades. It recently was
nominated for best environmental film at the International Documentary
Film Festival in Amsterdam. It picked up the audience award at the
Cinema Planeta International Film Festival in Mexico City and won the
jury prizes for best documentary at the Chicago Peace on Earth Film
Festival and the Festival International du Film d’Environment in

Horowitz says the film has resonated with audiences, which is what he
wanted it to do.

The film screened in Santa Fe at the Center for Contemporary Arts,
where it sold out a series of screenings.

“I made this film to give the people in the Marshall Islands a voice,”
he says. “They had their land ruined and contaminated. Now the people
are living with birth defects. I felt the responsibility to tell this
story because people did need to hear it.”

November 12, 2012 - Posted by | general

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