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Diplomatic Sneak Preview

A Night at the Movies, UN Style

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), May 6

For a change, we got to watch a movie today. On Ban’s invite, voilà a documentary on Global Zero due to be premiered only in June. Besides a couple of nice interviews to be seen as soon as cut, (by the way also with some of the prominence being featured in the multi-million documentary production as well as with the producers themselves) we enjoyed this thrilling documentary, a review of which I’d like to provide you in the following.

UN goes Hollywood

Remember “An Inconvenient Truth”? Rembember Al Gore, and how climate change became THE hot topic in 2007, with the Bali-summit preparing the way towards a follow-up treaty for the Kyoto-protocol? Everyone talked about it, they made millions, climate change was even acknowledged and its fight endorsed in the US. Momentum has really been building up lately, since the Prague speech by Obama, the Nuclear Posture Review on April 6th, the New START on April 8th, the Nuclear Security Summit on April 12th/13th (biggest gathering of heads of state since the founding of the UN 1945), the NPT RevCon in May and now, starting in June in Cannes, this global movie which is going to raise awareness on a massive scale.

The movie “Countdown to Zero”, by the producer Lawrence Bender, which you are gonna know from movies such as „An Inconvenient Truth“, or else almost all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, for that matter, and which Ban warmly lauded for his mobilization of a global public for the cause of climate change is supposed to be doing the very same for disarmament. Go get ‘em, boys!

The producer stresses the film is actually part of a much larger movement, with students campaigning throughout the US, international partners in other countries, it’ll open in July 9th, and millions will watch it. Arguably, the timing could not be better. Marketing experts around the world are busy as we speak. The movie will start in Chinese theaters even before the US; also Iran, Egypt, Turkey, as well as Western Europe (the usual suspects) will be served soon, starting with the International Film Festival in Cannes.

Ban Ki-moon and Michael Douglas (UN-messenger for nuclear disarmament) also strongly endorse it. The movie itself carefully approaches the viewer to the topic of imminently possible nuclear annihilation, not scaring people of with details right away, but repeating the important facts to enhance the chances viewers will recall them. The movie loses itself in multiple enumerations of horrible anecdotes, but without getting boring in doing so, as every one of them seems noteworthy. Having gone through the issues of false alarms, easy access to launch-codes, hair-trigger alert, the staggering consequences of even few nuclear weapons detonating and causing a “nuclear winter”, an artificial ice age that would likely destroy almost the whole species due to plants not surviving three years of frost..

As to nuclear terrorism, insecure storage is covered, especially in countries such as Pakistan, as well as smuggling from the former Soviet Union, both of which could enable terrorists to blow up a major city changing all perspectives on security and personal freedoms forever. Pretty much detail is also given to just how swiftly a bomb could be made, once the fissile material has been acquired.

All of these dangers then converge into an enthusiastically, pathetically presented appeal to the world and audience to demand and pursue complete disarmament and reach Global Zero. Despite the fact that the connection between the dangers arising from terrorist proliferation and the imperative to disarm is poorly outlined, the movie does make a strong case for an end to the era of nuclear weapons. This will receive massive worldwide attention thanks to the scale on which the production will be advertised. It is only thanks to this hope of broad attention that I can get myself to write this very review in spite of the whoppingly depressive message conveyed buy this movie.

In case you aren’t yet in favor of a world without nukes:

Look, if […] you’ve never changed your mind about something, pinch yourself. You may be dead.

- closing sequence


In summary, the movie surely does not provide for an in-depths, differntiated look at the nuclear armament problem, but it does resume its dangers in a rather impressive way. Not touching on the controversial issues such as Israel, Iran, disarmament failures under article VI NPT, it can rather be described as the least common denominator, focusing on the indisputable dangers we face. But sure, why not? Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm

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