Ondi Timoner, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker in her own right, recently interviewed the directors of four documentaries that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. All of the interviews are worth watching, but I was especially taken with her chat with Robert Stone about Pandora’s Promise. That segment starts at minute 27:11.
You should be able to click on this link and the video will start at the Robert Stone segment – after the obligatory pre-roll ad.
Timoner’s questions reveal how many people have an initial reaction of fear when they hear the word “nuclear”, but how that initial reaction is also often accompanied by intense curiosity about the technology and what it might be able to do. She starts with a question about how Pandora’s Promise might surprise people who are familiar with Radio Bikini, the first film that Stone introduced at Sundance. The question allows Stone to clearly separate his continued abhorrence of nuclear weapons from his belief that nuclear energy represents an enormous opportunity for humanity to prosper without destroying the ability of the planet to sustain civilization as we know it.
Timoner mentioned her empathy for Stone and how his film is being received; as the director of Cool It!, which described Bjorn Lomborg’s pragmatic ideas about climate change, Timoner has also tried to encourage environmentalists to engage in critical thinking about solutions instead of just railing about problems. As she described in one interview about Cool It!
Filmmaker: There’s an almost cultish feel to certain kinds of end-times environmentalist rhetoric. Were you thinking at all about the connecting points between what you’ve done in the past, especially on Join Us, and Bjørn’s contrarian stance with regard to this kind of hysteria?
Timoner: It absolutely was at the forefront of my mind. I realized I was kind of destined to make this movie was when I discovered all this shutting down of information, with people having to quit their job or because what they said didn’t follow the single-solution party line. You know, “Cut carbon by 50 percent or you’re the devil. This is the greatest moral issue of our time.” Certainly it’s up there, but the fact that 2 billion people don’t have clean drinking water is pretty amoral.
Based solely on the way that she phrased her questions, it sounds like Lomborg did not mention that nuclear energy might be the real solution to fossil fuel dependence or that it might avert many of the worst potential consequences of climate change. During her interview with Stone, Timoner learns about his motivation for making the film, the reception it is getting, and his plan to take a year and a half off from film making so that he can promote Pandora’s Promise and the message that it contains.
Here is my interpretation of Stone’s message: Nuclear energy can enable humans to flourish and live abundant lives without destroying the Earth’s ability to sustain us all. I am pleased that he is working to promote that message and grateful to Ondi Timoner for helping him.