The University of Nuclear Bombs (Elsawi, 2009): USA

Reviewed by Lea Encarnacion.  Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The University of Nuclear Bombs, directed by Mohamed Elsawi and Joshua Ortiz, is a documentary about the University of California’s association with the creation of nuclear bombs in America.  From the beginning, the UC has been involved with the production of these bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The film uncovers the Los Alamos Project and the Manhattan Project.

There are secret meetings shown by the film between members of the UC regents and powerful authority figures in government, politics and science, such as President Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.  They blatantly state that UC Regents got money from the government in order to support the goals of the government in the war.  The UC Regents have direct relations to the governor and Washington DC. At this point in the film I felt like it was disjointed because it suddenly jumps onto another topic without a smooth link/transition.

The next part goes over the details of plutonium in science labs. The Livermore lab in particular is shown to have health risks and dangers, since it was stored in open containers.  One of the residents tells how his wife died from skin cancer because the lab released plutonium in the city sewage, giving deadly cancer to the residents.  There was a plan by a group of mock terrorists to reveal the security risks of the plant.   Even though the lab owners knew about it, they were still able to carry out their mission to steal the plutonium and create crude nuclear weapons.

The basic message of this moving documentary is, “We need regents to be democratized and stop making bombs.” During the Q+A that followed, I found out that the main reason why students are not particularly concerned about this issue is because of current fee increases and loan scams – that hits hard on their finances.  I felt like this documentary was very good in movement and stirring the audience to create interest in the subject.

One thing I didn’t like about this film is that I left the theater feeling like I was missing a part of the whole story that was an essential part.  Basically I felt that it was too one-sided.  Also the transition in the middle was not clear, so many audience members felt like they were shown two different films – the first being about the UC Regents and bombs, and the second about the US National Government and how other countries are involved in the process.  The bottom line is that the United States of America is a dominant country that uses nuclear weapons to boss around the other countries who don’t have the powers to fight back and defend themselves.

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