2012 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA

Next up in my 2012 Sundance doc line-up overview: Don Argott and Sheena M Joyce’s US Documentary Competition title THE ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA, about the history and potential risky future of nuclear energy.

Sundance Program Description:

Based on Kelly McMasters’s memoir about growing up in a nuclear-reactor community, this stirring film illustrates the dire health consequences for many residents in Shirley, her Long Island hometown. Yet despite the known risks of utilizing nuclear power, our country’s rapidly increasing energy needs are fueling a nuclear renaissance.

Acutely topical—given the recent Fukushima disaster in Japan—The Atomic States of America convincingly encapsulates both the history of this allegedly clean source of energy and our collective denial of a potentially looming disaster at our aging sites. Firsthand narratives from people connected to the nuclear industry blend with the behind-the-scenes debacle of maintaining legitimate regulation.

Potent, emotionally powerful, and highly revealing, Don Argott and Sheena Joyce’s film does an outstanding job of opening our eyes to the reality of nuclear power. “We all live downstream from something,” McMasters reminds us in this cautionary call to action.

Some Background:
This marks the fifth doc that Argott and Joyce have produced together, beginning with 2005’s ROCK SCHOOL, which premiered at Sundance and went on to score a theatrical release from Newmarket Films. Follow up films TWO DAYS IN APRIL (2007) was distributed by Netflix’s Red Envelope, while THE ART OF THE STEAL (2009) premiered at Toronto and was picked up by Sundance Selects. Argott directed the previous titles solo, but partnered with Demian Fenton for LAST DAYS HERE (2011), which premiered at SXSW, recently picked up an award at IDFA, and is slated for a release in March through Sundance Selects. Their newest film marks Joyce’s first as director, together with Argott.

Why You Should Watch:
Argott and Joyce have a proven track record producing engrossing non-fiction, and getting distribution so that their films can connect with larger audiences – especially important with a subject matter as serious as nuclear energy. Exploring the likely disastrous path the US is heading down due to greed, undue political influence, and apparent short-term memory problems that conveniently overlook past disasters like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the doc serves as a necessary wake-up call about potential future cancer clusters and pollution with half-lives in the thousands of years.

More Info:
While the film doesn’t have a standalone website, Argott and Joyce’s 9.14 Pictures site may be found here. The duo discuss their doc in a “Meet the Artists” interview for Sundance here and with Indiewire here. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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