Documenting World Politics [book]

Rens Van Munster
2015 unpublished
Nuclear weapons have been a fertile theme in documentary film making since 1945. These films are deeply political and derive their significance from providing access to and information about a fear-inducing yet increasingly ethereal phenomenon. Drawing on the cultural history of the nuclear age and contemporary security theory the paper analyses the political significance of nuclear docs in three periods: the early nuclear age, the years bracketing the pinnacle of the nuclear disarmament
more » ... t in the mid-1980s, and the post-Cold War period. Government propaganda films shot through with ambivalence, of which "Duck and Cover" was perhaps the most (in)famous, dominated the genre in the first period. During the second period I focus on two reflexive films, The Atomic Café (1982) and Radio Bikini (1988), that use irony and shock as strategies of exposure and exploit the deep ambivalences of nuclear politics as a strategy of political dissent. While contemporary nuclear documentary is diverse, advocacy films like Countdown to Zero (2010) and Nuclear Tipping Point (2010) that draw on and speak to contemporary security discourse and its associated visual imagery illustrate the complexity, constraints, and dissonances in nuclear politics. I argue that nuclear documentaries reflect and shape nuclear politics by providing access to an increasingly virtual phenomenon. The conclusion offers a few reflections on the political potential of nuclear documentary.
doi:10.4324/9781315756899 fatcat:yxqnoehmvfb5zmersawtbuf3bm