Portland-based filmmaker Mark Shapiro’s documentary, “Downwind,” has been available to rent on streaming services, but this weekend, local audiences will be able to see the film on the big screen. Shapiro and his co-director Douglas Brian Miller will also be on hand for question-and-answer sessions, joined via Skype by Ian Zabarte, Principal Man of the Western Bands of the Shoshone Nation, who is interviewed in the film.
“Downwind” will show at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 9, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Living Room Theaters.
The subject of how the first atomic bomb was made in the United States became especially timely this summer, with the success of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” But “Downwind” tells a story that the blockbuster drama didn’t really delve into, specifically the nuclear tests in the Western U.S. that followed the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan in 1945.
Shapiro, who lives in Portland and has worked for companies including Laika animation studio and Nike, said in an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive in October that he and Miller came to make “Downwind” after hearing about “The Conqueror,” a 1956 movie starring John Wayne, that was filmed in Utah, in locations not far from the Nevada Test Site, a location where hundreds of nuclear tests were conducted.
Patrick Wayne, son of the star, says in an interview for “Downwind,” that the people who made “The Conqueror” weren’t aware that they were working in an area that had been, as the film says, dusted with extremely high levels of radioactive fallout. Wayne, and others associated with “The Conqueror,” later died of complications related to cancer.
The initial curiosity about “The Conqueror” led Shapiro and Miller to dig “deeper into the research,” as he said, and they ultimately learned that from 1951 through 1992, the U.S. detonated 928 nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site.
For tickets and more details: https://pdx.livingroomtheaters.com/movies/171753/seats
— Kristi Turnquist
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