First Uranium Film Festival Ends With an Onscreen Blast

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, June 1, 2011 (ENS) – The world’s First International Uranium Film Festival and its awards ceremony ended Saturday night with what festival coordinator Marcia Gomes de Oliveira called “a real “bombastic surprise.”

“Atomic Bombs on Planet Earth,” the newest production of British film director Peter Greenaway, was shown to the invited awards-night audience.

“Very surprisingly from 1945 to 1989 – there have been 2,201 atomic bombs dropped on the planet Earth – an astonishing number of atomic bombs implying huge destruction and fallout,” reads the synopsis of the 12 minute film completed in March.

“Small Boy” nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site, USA, July 14, 1962, was the last atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at this test site. (Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Energy)

The film shows evidence of every bomb explosion, documented with the nation responsible, the date and location, the force and the height above earth or sea level, in what the synopsis calls “a relentless build up of accumulating destruction that is both awe-inspiring and dreadful in the true biblical sense of the phrase – full of dread.”

“We received that fantastic short film of Greenaway today,” Festival Director Norbert Suchanek said Saturday. “We have decided that “Atomic Bombs on Planet Earth” will be the opening film of the Second International Uranium Film Festival May 2012 in Rio de Janeiro!” In 2012, Rio will host Rio+20, a major United Nations conference centered on sustainable development.

More than 1,000 viewers attended the First International Uranium Film Festival, which showed 34 international documentaries and films about the nuclear fuel chain and radiation risks at two theaters in the Rio de Janeiro suburb of Santa Teresa.

Selected by a jury, the 34 films were produced in Brazil, India, Australia, the Netherlands, UK, Costa Rica, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, the United States, Japan, South Africa and other countries, by organizations and filmakers speaking out against the risks and dangers associated with the nuclear industry.

Four winning films were chosen – two by the jury and two by the audience.

The Audience Award for the best short film went to “Césio 137. O Brilho da Morte,” or Césio 137. Brightness of Death,” directed by Luiz Eduardo Jorge and produced by Laura Pires of Brazil.

Luiz Eduardo Jorge and Laura Pires with their award (Photo courtesy Yellow Archives)

This documentary shows the tragic events surrounding the 1987 release of the radioactive element cesium-137 into a populated area in the city of Goiânia in central Brazil. The worst radioactive accident in Latin American history, it claimed many lives and destroyed the health of thousands of survivors.

The winner of the Audience Award for the Best Movie, “Césio 137. O Pesadelo de Goiânia,” focused on the same incident and was also produced by Laura Pires, Roberto’s widow.

Roberto Pires contracted famous Brazilian actors for this, the first film made dramatizing the nuclear accident. The script is based on statements by the victims and medical personal attending the victims taken by Roberto Pires at the time of the accident. Pires himself died in 2001 of cancer from radiation exposure.

The Jury Selection for Best Feature Film was “Into Eternity,” a new production by Danish director Michael Madsen. The film deals with issues concerning the permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste as it takes the audience down thousands of meters into a rock formation in the countryside of Finland where the first high-level nuclear waste storage facility is being built.

The Jury Selection for Best Short Film was a Costa Rican production from director Pablo Ortega of the University of Costa Rica entitled, “Uranio 238: La Bomba Sucia del Pentágono,” or “Uranium 238: The Pentagon’s Dirty Pool.”

U.S. soldier with a depleted uranium weapon from the film “Uranium 238: The Pentagon’s Dirty Pool” (Pomotional photo)

“In my 25 years as an anti-DU activist this experience has been a highlight in the exposure of a very serious problem that faces mankind today – the use of radioactive waste as a military weapon,” said Damacio Lopez, the executive director of the International Depleted Uranium Study Team, who represented the 28 minute film together with Isabel Macdonald from the San José Quaker Peace Centre of Costa Rica.

The documentary pointed out the risks of the military use of depleted uranium for presentation at the First Latin American Conference on Uranium Weapons. This event was organized by the San José Quaker Peace Centre of Costa Rica, the International Depleted Uranium Study Team and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons in San José, Costa Rica in 2009.

“Our commitment along with the film festival organizers in Brazil is to spread the information gathered in this festival. It is a rich source for all those seeking a world free of radioactive waste,” said Macdonald. “Winning this award will help the efforts towards an international treaty banning DU weapons worldwide.”

Damacio Lopez and Isabel Macdonald with their award for “Uranium 238: The Pentagon’s Dirty Pool” (Photo courtesy Yellow Archives)

Lopez said, “Used in 1991 in the first Gulf War, the Balkans conflict, and later on in the second invasion of Iraq, this dangerous toxic and radioactive waste is associated with alarming rises in cancer rates, infant malformations and other terrible health effects among civilian populations in war zones and soldiers who are deployed in these wars or live next to DU testing sites.”

This documentary is part of a worldwide campaign to ban the use of uranium weapons in wars by treaty. As part of these efforts, peace activists celebrated on April 28 the approval by the Legislature of Costa Rica of a reform to Costa Rica’s Arms Law, that bans the use, manufacture, transit, production and distribution of uranium weapons.

A surprise for the invited guests Saturday night was the appearance of three representatives of the indigenous peoples of Brazil who gave a musical performance and offered a prayer to the Uranium Film Festival and its guests.

Chief Alfonso Apurina from the Amazon state of Acre and his two companions from other indigenous peoples were invited by the festival organizers in respect of their traditional land rights in Brazil and also in respect of their struggle to preserve the Old Indigenous Museum of Rio de Janeiro.

The museum is in danger because of construction projects to accommodate the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Indigenous people from all over Brazil have been occupying the abandoned first Museo do Indio of Brazil beside the famous Maracanã Football stadium since 2005, with the intention of creating their own cultural center for all the indigenous peoples of Latin America.

This Museo do Indio was deeded to the indigenous people of Brazil by its creator Darcy Ribeiro in 1954, but left abandoned since 1977.

Since 2010, these indigenous people have been at risk of being expelled from the building and the land it stands on that was deeded to them. They have no intention of giving up this stronghold to make way for a shopping center as part of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games project.

The First International Uranium Film Festival plays in São Paulo, Brazil June 2th to 5th. In August the festival will travel to the Brazilian cities of Recife, João Pessoa, Natal, Fortaleza and in September to Salvador.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.