"John is a savage, but a happy, amenable savage."
–1950’s newsreel footage of Marshall Islanders
Featuring recently declassified U.S. government documents, survivor testimony, and unseen archival footage, Nuclear Savage
uncovers one of the most troubling chapters in modern American history:
how Marshall islanders, considered an uncivilized culture, were
deliberately used as human guinea pigs to study the effects of nuclear
fallout on human beings.
Between 1946 and 1958 the United States
tested 67 nuclear weapons above ground on or near Bikini and Enewetok
atolls. One hydrogen bomb was 1000 times larger than the Hiroshima
bomb. Entire islands were vaporized and populated islands were
blanketed with fallout. As the film shows, the heavily exposed people
of Rongelap were then enrolled as human subjects in the top-secret
Project 4.1 and evacuated to a severely contaminated island to study the
effects of eating radioactive food for nearly 30 years. Many of the
Marshall Islanders developed cancers and had babies that were stillborn
or with serious birth defects.
Nuclear Savage follows the
islanders today as they continue to fight for justice and
acknowledgement of what was done to them. Despite recent disclosures,
the U.S. government continues to deny that the islanders were
deliberately used as human guinea pigs. The film raises disturbing
questions about racism, the U.S. government’s moral obligation to the
people of the Marshall Islands, and why the government is continuing to
cover up the intent of the tests and Project 4.1 after several decades.
Reviews and Festivals"Editor's Choice. Highly recommended.... features recently declassified U.S. government documents, survivor testimony, and unseen archival footage."
– Science Books and Films (AAAS)
"Recommended. The story portrayed in Nuclear Savage is fascinating, angering and frustrating but one worth seeing. The film also covers some of the history of the U.S. involvement in the South Pacific and places the current issues in the context of colonization."
–Educational Media Reviews Online
"A powerful and disturbing film documents the apparently intentional use of Pacific Islanders for nuclear-bomb and human radiation testing by the U.S. government. As the film lucidly shows, these egregious incidents are only the latest in a despicable history of contact between Pacific Islanders and the West."
– Anthropology Review Database
"This disturbing examination of the consequences of the many nuclear tests conducted in the Marshall Islands...raises many moral and legal questions. This thought-provoking... film can be the basis of classroom discussions in both science and history classes."
–School Library Journal
"Disturbing... It's a film that needs to be a staple in U.S. and modern world history curricula. Not only chronicles the experimentation on the Marshallese but also introduces us to individuals who continue to work for justice."
– Rethinking Schools
"Highly charged and well-assembled...information-packed film is briskly paced and professionally packaged. Though allegations of secret programs and cover-ups have been around for many years, Nuclear Savage brings fresh information to the table via previously classified U.S. government documents....The documentary assumes the qualities of a detective thriller with massive moral, political and financial implications. Few will be left unmoved by the indisputable evidence of lives being severely affected by the weapons testing program."
"A poignant, provocative, and deeply troubling look at the lingering and lasting effects of nuclear disaster and the human consequences of US government efforts to define, contain, and control public awareness and concern."
“One of the most disturbing documentaries I have ever seen. Opens up one of the hidden horrors of American history. The film does a stunning job juxtaposing examples of our smug ignorance of South Sea culture with the reality of what we did to it.”
– Robert Koehler, Chicago Tribune
“The term ‘savage’ is used to refer to people from primitive cultures, but this documentary shows how savagery reaches new levels with the advent of advanced technology. …Without incredible archival footage and shocking secret documents, the story would seem unbelievable¬.”
– Film Society, Lincoln Center
“A heartbreaking documentary. Nuclear Savage is a shining example of how documentaries are one of the most compelling means of telling stories that, while not pretty, are important to talk about.”
– Culture Magazine
"A heartbreaking and intimate ethnographic portrait of Pacific Islanders struggling for dignity and survival after decades of intentional radiation poisoning at the hands of the American government."
- Hawaii International Film Festival
"Utterly devastating...a true detective story that relies on recently declassified U.S. government documents, heartbreaking survivor testimony, and previously unseen archival footage."
– Vermont International Film Festival
Screened at Association for Asian Studies Conference
International Documentary Festival, Amsterdam
AUDIENCE AWARD, Best Film Cinema Planeta International Festival, Mexico
JURY PRIZE, Best Feature Documentary, Paris/FIFE International Festival of Environmental Films
JURY PRIZE, Chicago Peace on Earth Film Festival
Vancouver International Documentary Film Festival
Montreal International Festival of Environmental Films
Film Society, Lincoln Center - New York
Hawaii International Film Festival
White Sands International Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
Contemporary Science 360 Film Festival- Moscow, Russia