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Why Divisive Pro-Nuclear Power Film 'Pandora's Promise' is the Right Kind of Doc for CNN to Air

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire November 7, 2013 at 1:24PM

Is nuclear power the solution to global warming? "Pandora's Promise," a documentary from Robert Stone ("Radio Bikini," "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst") that airs on CNN tonight, November 7th at 9pm after a premiere at Sundance and a theatrical release in June, attempts to make the counterintuitive case that as an energy source, the glow of radioactivity is actually the green choice.
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'Pandora's Promise'
Robert Stone 'Pandora's Promise'

Discussions about the economics of different power sources and the expense of building nuclear plants are likewise not brought up. The anti-nuke forces are represented mainly in shots of crowds gathered outside plants holding signs, or Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. or Helen Caldicott addressing them ("There is no safe level of radiation!" she shouts) or scattered addressing questions from the filmmaker at an event -- never through sit-down interviews.

"Pandora's Promise" is certainly firmly if not blindly one-sided, but like "Blackfish," the previous doc acquisition that CNN aired last month to much ratings and social media success, it feels like the type of film it makes sense for the cable news outlet to air. While something like "Our Nixon," which was more art film than straightforward historical account, felt out of place in the context of news programs, advocacy works like "Blackfish" and "Pandora's Promise" fit in more easily as programming.

The wider access offered by CNN provides a platform on which preaching to the choir isn't necessarily going to be the case.

And more importantly, they allow the network to use the films as a starting point for discussion of the topics on which they're centered -- especially as CNN feels an obligation to present a more balanced viewpoint on the issue than the docs may offer by themselves. As with "Blackfish," "Pandora's Promise" will be followed by an Anderson Cooper-hosted special entitled "Nuclear Power: The Fallout of Fear," and CNN has already published a piece from Natural Resources Defense Council co-director Ralph Cavanagh and nuclear energy expert Tom Cochran rebutting some of the film's claims. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert Stone debated nuclear power on Wednesday night on "Piers Morgan Live."

In theaters, advocacy docs tend to attract audiences who are already interested and prone to agree with the arguments being made. And it's worth mentioning that just as "Pandora's Promise" calls out anti-nuclear scare ads that were placed by oil companies, the film does count as one of its executive producers Paul G. Allen, whose Vulcan Capital invests in "advanced nuclear technologies" in addition to solar and geothermal power -- untangling individual interests is only part of the complicated reality of this issue. But the wider access offered by CNN provides a platform on which preaching to the choir isn't necessarily going to be the case -- which makes it an interesting one for these films, one that, regardless of how you feel about the safety and environmental friendliness of nuclear power, makes the airing of "Pandora's Promise" a potential starting point for a more in-depth conversation.

This article is related to: Television, TV Reviews, CNN, CNN Films, Pandora's Promise, Robert Stone






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