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The Bomb (free)

  • Union South Marquee 1308 West Dayton Street Madison, Wisconsin (map)

This short documentary reinvigorates the conversation about nuclear proliferation. Info

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The hour-long 2016 documentary The Bomb may open with a satellite's view of Earth, a serene, wide-angle panorama of humanity's achievements and aspirations, but it quickly plummets back down to the surface to face the realities of geopolitical fear-mongering and existential threats in oppressive military parades, rocket contrails, seismic blasts from atomic tests, and ensuing fallout. Often favoring a silent impressionism, co-directors Smriti Keshari, Eric Schlosser, and Kevin Ford embrace the ethos that once guided Godfrey Reggio throughout his Qatsi Trilogy (1982-2002) in re-contextualizing archival footage through shrewd editing and an evocative, engaging score. Here, electronic quartet The Acid's compositions oscillate between ambient techno, drone, and lyrical, moody alternative R&B in an effort to capture not only the gravity of nuclear armaments in Operation Upshot-Knothole and Atlas Missile launches through the 1950s, but also the downright absurdity of "duck and cover" civil defense demonstrations. The latter, for example, were sold to appease the public and quite distinctly adopted in Raygun Gothic style and parodied by the Fallout game series.

While the film does not adhere to the linear analysis of nuclear development one might expect in a scientific documentary, it's significant to acknowledge the filmmakers' compassionate concerns for the average civilian, as the proliferation of nuclear weapons seems to be setting us up for an inevitable catastrophe. The Bomb is indeed a catalyst to a long overdue public conversation. Aptly, following this co-presentation by Outrider Foundation and the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, co-director Keshari will lead a discussion panel with Rachel Bronson, President of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as well as Tom Weis, faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design. —Grant Phipps