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Atomic Filmmakers: Behind the Scenes (1997)

  Directed by: Peter Kuran
Links: Atomic Filmmakers: Behind the Scenes on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video
Genre: Documentary

This movie gets: 5.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Interesting, but not overly so" - a review by mino

The Atomic Filmmakers: Behind The Scenes is a kind of companion film to Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995). While Trinity told the story of US government atomic bomb tests, The Atomic Filmmakers is a sort of mini-documentary about the good folk of Lookout Mountain Laboratory, a top-secret US government film lab that was responsible for taking most of the amazing footage showcased in Trinity.

The Atomic Filmmakers follows a similar format to Trinity: interviews with key people interspersed with a bunch of newly released archival footage. Obviously the people interviewed have quite a different perspective on the tests than those from Trinity: if nothing else, they were very much on 'the ground floor', rather than being in a lab somewhere, which gives them a very different viewpoint.

There are quite a few interesting folk who worked at Lookout Mountain, and they have some interesting tales to tell. I was particularly intrigued by the story of a filmmaker of Japanese descent, who spent years helping the US Government refine their bomb-making process despite the fact that his aunt and uncle were incinerated at Nagasaki. That's far from the only story this man has to tell; personally, I would have liked to have heard more.

One thing is striking about all of the filmmakers and technicians interviewed here: how incredibly blasé these guys were. Whether they didn't realise the sort of incredible power they were dealing with every day, or whether they genuinely don't care, is hard to tell. It seems like maybe they immersed themselves in their work so much, in finding new ways to overcome the technical problems inherent in filming a many-megaton blast, precisely so they didn't have to think about what was really going on. I mean, the same fellow whose relatives were killed in Nagasaki talks blithely about how a group of scientists volunteered to stand at ground zero while an atomic test was conducted above their heads. Well, most of them volunteered, that is… he was 'volunteered' without his consent!

Unfortunately, while these interviews were interesting, they just didn't hold my attention long enough to make the whole film as fascinating as Trinity. There is still some great archival footage, obviously, but we just don't hear enough about the characters involved, which is unfortunate. The focus is mostly on the filmmaking itself; one gets the idea that this is something of a 'side project' of director Peter Kuran's, a sort of personal hobby-horse, interested as he obviously is in the technical side of filmmaking.

I'm sure a lot of people more interested in the technical aspects of filming something that can wipe out a city would enjoy this aspect of The Atomic Filmmakers more than I; but as someone who found the characters far more interesting than the technical minutiae of camera types, I found my attention starting to wander. It's not exactly a technical discourse on film stocks and processing techniques — it's never inaccessible — but, unfortunately, it's not nearly as fascinating as Trinity itself.

mino gives this movie 5 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 26 Aug 2002

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