Access Pollywood: Countdown to Zero

by Editorial

Lawrence Bender, the multiple award-winning producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Pulp Fiction,” is working to raise awareness of the nuclear dangers facing our world.
By Lawrence Bender

A scene from "Countdown to Zero." (Film stills courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Movies matter. We’ve known that ever since Charlie Chaplin made the world laugh throughout a Depression; since Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper turned a generation on to the idea of dropping out; since Sidney Poitier opened a nation’s eyes to its own prejudices. When I saw Al Gore’s slide show six years ago, I knew there was a movie to be made that could make a difference. And it did.

After producing “An Inconvenient Truth,” a lot of people came to me with other causes – and there are a lot of important ones: water scarcity, poverty and so many more. But when Matt Brown and Bruce Blair, co-coordinators of Global Zero, called me about making a documentary on nuclear danger, I realized that this is the other issue, along with climate change, that poses a planetary threat.

Academy Award-winning producer Lawrence Bender. (Photo courtesy of Global Zero)

So we, along with my “Inconvenient Truth” partners, Jeff Skoll and Participant Media, produced “Countdown to Zero,” an edge-of-your seat movie about nuclear proliferation, terrorism and the threat of an accidental launch. We interviewed former heads of state who once had their fingers on the button, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Tony Blair, Pervez Musharraf and F.W. de Klerk; experts such as CIA counterterrorism officer Valerie Plame Wilson; and perpetrators that included a jailed nuclear material smuggler in the country of Georgia. It is a scary film.

But the point of the movie is not simply to scare people – it is to educate and motivate them to get involved in Global Zero’s efforts to eliminate all nuclear weapons. This new movement, of which I am a founder, was launched two years ago in Paris by an international group of 100 political, military, business, civic and religious leaders. In just two years it has grown to 300 leaders and 400,000 citizens worldwide.

The group believes that whatever deterrent value nuclear weapons may have had in the Cold War is now outweighed by the dangers of proliferation and nuclear terrorism – and the only way to eliminate these threats is to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

Our international Global Zero Commission of 23 political and military leaders developed a practical, step-by-step plan – backed by hundreds of former heads of state, foreign ministers, national security advisors and military commanders – to eliminate all nuclear weapons through phased and verified reductions over the next two decades. This will take years of painstaking work, but it can be done. Political support is growing. Over the past two years, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev jointly declared their commitment to the Global Zero goal and negotiated the new START Treaty. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

It is my hope that “Countdown to Zero” will help bring this issue to the top of the political agenda. We screened the film at the United Nations, the CIA and at events in India, Kazakhstan and other locations around the world. It premiered at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals and opened in 85 cities in North America this summer to critical acclaim and widespread media coverage, and is now available on DVD.

I encourage others to get involved and bring their own skills, talents and resources to the cause. There is nothing more urgent facing the world.

A scene from "Countdown to Zero."(Film stills courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

A scene from "Countdown to Zero."(Film stills courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

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