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Countdown to Zero: Apocalypse Soon

How the producer of An Inconvenient Truth learned to start worrying and hate the bomb.

by
Christian Toto

Bio

August 5, 2010 - 12:01 am
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Film producer Lawrence Bender wants his documentaries to make a difference.

Don’t all documentary filmmakers want the same thing, from Michael Moore’s dream of the death of capitalism to Morgan Spurlock’s vendetta against the Big Mac?

But Bender’s last documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, affected the global dialogue on climate change no matter where you stand on the issue.

Bender hopes to catch lightning in a bottle once more with Countdown to Zero, a film detailing the dangers of a world chock full of nuclear weapons.

It’s a topic that stands a far better chance of uniting the left and the right — who doesn’t fear a nuclear bomb assault?

The film details the history of the atomic bomb and how the nuclear club keeps expanding, and recalls a series of peace-time accidents that nearly detonated these weapons. It’s the kind of frightmares that would give even Freddy Krueger a scare.

We also hear tales of stolen uranium and learn just how easily a bomb could be smuggled into the U.S.

Bender, who calls himself a filmmaker and activist, spent time talking to CIA officials about nuclear bombs and gathered plenty of material to keep him up at night for months to come. The old sense of security supplied by the mutually assured destruction meme no longer applies, he says.

“The stuff that’s not in the movie is just as terrifying [as what made the final cut],” he says.

Countdown features some pretty impressive talking heads, from former President Jimmy Carter to former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Getting them on camera took patience. Bender says the film team met Gorbachev during a recent visit to Harvard University. A year and a half later they nabbed the interview.

“None of the interviews were easy. ‘We’re filming a movie about nuclear terrorism. Tell me everything you know,’” he says of the approach they essentially had to take.

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