Anti-Nuclear Film Shows at QFT

Countdown to Zero producer Lawrence Bender believes the 'time has come' to campaign

Countdown to Zero is a stunning documentary that looks at the increasing possibility of nuclear catastrophe in the world today. The film takes its cue from a speech given by President John F Kennedy to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1961, in which he said: 'Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.'

Countdown to Zero sets out to show that Kennedy’s words are even more relevant today. The film is directed by Lucy Walker (Waste Land), and produced by Lawrence Bender, the Oscar-nominated producer of all bar one of Quentin Tarantino’s movies as well as Al Gore’s 2006 Global warming doc, An Inconvenient Truth. It will be showing at Queen's Film Theatre from June 24.

Following on from the massive success An Inconvenient Truth, Bender was approached by various organisations keen to produce further documentaries based around similar themes. One phone call was from Bruce Blair and Matt Brown from Global Zero, an organisation launched in 2008 made up of more than 300 political, military, business, faith and civic leaders – as well as many hundreds of thousands of ordinary people – all working for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.

Bender believed that the time was right for a documentary film on the subject. 'There are several world leaders who believe we’re in more danger right now than at any time since the beginning of the Cold War,' he explained down the phone from his home in Los Angeles, 'because of the danger of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons.'

In the film, director Walker shows the level of insecurity around nuclear materials in Russia, while experts like ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame, as well as Princeton nuclear scientists, discuss the attempts of ‘rogue states’ to build, buy or steal nuclear weapons. At times the director lets the basic facts speak for themselves. For instance, there are in excess of 23,000 operational nuclear weapons in the world at this present time.

Those who believe Countdown to Zero is little more than pacifist scare-mongering from the Hollywood liberal elite couldn’t be more wrong, according to Bender, who explains how the whole movement toward reducing and eventually eliminating all nuclear weapons was begun by four conservative gentlemen (including ex-US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger) publishing an article pointing out the dangers of nuclear policy in today’s world.

'And let’s not forget that we have Ronald Reagan in the film,' Bender adds, 'who gave a speech about his dream about the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. So this is not just a liberal idea. This is an idea whose time has come.'

The film features a wealth of archive footage, which puts the issue into historical context, as well as featuring scores of interviews with politicians, scientists and others. The specific consequences of a potential nuclear detonation are also made clear. We are shown the world’s greatest cities, told about the 'five-mile' area of maximum devastation, and the numbers who would die: the film is a sobering watch.

There is a positive aspect to the film, however. The film-makers provide information about how we, as individuals, can help to effect change. 'It’s not as easy as the climate crisis, where you can change your light bulbs,' Bender admits. 'But you can join the Demand Zero movement to get involved. You can put pressure on your government.'

Demand Zero Day occurrs on Tuesday, June 21. Countdown to Zero will be screened simultaneously across the UK and Ireland, before venues link up live to London’s BAFTA for a high-profile panel discussion featuring Lawrence Bender and ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame amongst others. Audiences are also encouraged to join the discussion and text in their questions.

QFT will be hosting their own Countdown to Zero premiere screening at 6.20, with an introduction by James Orr, director of Friends of the Earth NI. To learn more about the film, the campaign and how you can join the countdown audience, go to

Countdown to Zero runs in the QFT from June 21-30. Book your ticket via What's On.