ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For Damacio Lopez, the hard work is done. Now all people have to do is show up to the International Uranium Film Festival.
The traveling festival will make its first stop in the United States in the Duke City on Wednesday, Nov. 27 and Thursday, Nov. 28. It will then move on to Santa Fe and Window Rock, Ariz., before heading to New York City and Washington, D.C., in February.
The festival highlights more than 40 films from 15 countries that explore not only the radioactive element called uranium, but nuclear practices as well.
Lopez, a coordinator for the festival, says the films are documentaries, experimental and animated films, new comedies, fiction and science-fiction films.
“Getting the schedules down to what is being shown was a difficult job,” he says. “Each of the screenings has different films that will relate to the audiences. This is just a way for people to find out more about this subject.”
The festival was founded by Norbert G. Suchanek of Germany, who now lives in Brazil. It is dedicated to showing films that highlight the entire Nuclear Fuel Chain – from uranium mining, nuclear power plants and uranium bullets to Hiroshima, Fukushima and Fallujah.
At the festival, Suchanek and Marcia Gomes de Oliveira, executive director, will present discussions along with producers and directors of the films.
One of the films to be showcased will be Santa Fe resident Adam Jonas Horowitz’s documentary “Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1.” The film will screen at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27.
The documentary was named best featured documentary and picked up a “Yellow Oscar” at the IUFF in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, and Horowitz traveled to Rio to attend the event.
His journey in making the film started more than 25 years ago when he traveled to the Marshall Islands in 1986. What he discovered while visiting there was shocking and inspired him to make a documentary.
The Marshall Islands, a former American military colony in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, were chock-full of radioactive coconuts, leaking nuclear waste repositories and densely populated slums.
All of these were the direct result the United States conducting 67 atomic and hydrogen bomb tests in there in the 1950s. The projects 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.
“These are stories that we don’t really hear about,” Horowitz says in an interview. “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.
Also being shown is the film “Atomic Bomb Home” by Japanese filmmaker Katsumi Sakaguchi. It will screen at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28.
The documentary observes people living in the Genbaku Home (Atomic Bomb Home), a nursing home in Nagasaki, Japan, for aged atomic bomb victims. They put on re-enactments of Aug. 9, 1945 in Nagasaki to hand on their memories and prayers to peace.
Lopez says it’s films like the ones being screened that will help open people’s eyes to this subject.
“We don’t hear a lot about it unless we’re involved in the industry,” he says. “These films offer a glimpse into what is not only happening in our own backyard, but around the world. Other communities are dealing with these issues as well and it’ll be nice to get some more information out to the general public.”
The Santa Fe portion of the festival will take place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the Center for Contemporary Arts, and the Window Rock screening will take place Dec. 2-4 at the Navajo Nation Museum Theatre. For more information on the festival, visit uraniumfilmfestival.org.