by Ben Lewis
12 July, 2011
I have just printed up a limited edition of my award-winning documentary about French Nuclear testing in the Pacific 1966 – 1996. It’s full of French Ministry of Defence footage of French nuclear tests and propaganda films. I spent two weeks filming in Tahiti, and also shot further interviews in France and Australia. The film won awards across the world and a year after it was released, the French government finally agreed to pay compensation to the local islanders and to their military personnel. The DVD is, as usual PAL Europe Region 2. Only £14.99 plus postage and packing (£2 for the UK, £3 for further afield). You can buy it via paypal. Credit cards accepted!
“Both painful and empowering, this is a film everyone needs to see.” San Francisco Bay Guardian
“A salutary tale encompassing repeated betrayals of trust, extraordinary recklessness and the brutal suppression of any local or international resistance” Time Out, London.
On 2 July 1966, a nuclear device codenamed ‘Aldebaran’ was detonated on Moruroa Atoll, beginning thirty years of nuclear testing in French Polynesia. A few days later, the French sent a naval vessel, La Coquille, to the island of Mangareva, situated only 400 km from the test site to carry out a series of tests. The results were shocking – so shocking they were kept secret for over 30 years. President Jacques Chirac promised the end of nuclear tests there in 1995, as rioters set fire to the Tahitian capital Papeete, and a thirty-strong flotilla of international protestors’ yachts defied French warships in the waters around Moruroa. This is the true story of liberty, equality and radio-activity.
At the end of May 2005, ten years after they stopped nuclear tests on the idyllic atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa, documents finally came to light that proved that the French government has been lying for fifty years about the fallout from their tests in the Pacific.
The documents published in the journal ‘Damocles’ show that fallout from French nuclear tests in 1966 and 1967 fell on inhabitants on nearby islands at levels up to 140 times those in the forbidden zone around Chernobyl.
The publication of these documents follow a new independent medical study which offers the first conclusive scientific proof that French Polynesians were affected by fallout from French nuclear tests. The study reveals that French Polynesians are three times as likely to suffer thyroid complaints as Europeans – health problems known to indisputably linked to radiation.
In “Blowing Up Paradise” completed shortly before these new documents came to light, director Ben Lewis comes to the same conclusions by a different route. using meticulously researched archive material from New Zealand, Tahiti and the French television and the French Ministry of Defence, this documentary reveals how right until today, the French army and state has been lying about the harmlessness of their tests., while islanders, test workers and their own soldiers fell ill.
Focusing on ten French tests, presented stylistically itself as a nuclear countdown, this documentary recounts the story of French nuclear testing in the Pacific and the struggle to stop them 1966-96. It is a rollercoaster of a story packed with massive nuclear explosions filmed in colour, proud French generals and presidents, idyllic tropical islands, adventure on the high seas, the tears of sick former tests workers and French soldiers , the bombs of radical terrorist cells and Pink-Panther-esque escapades of French spies, the struggle of an oppressed people for independence, environmental protest, riots and a city in flames.
The result is a real-life, nuclear version of the age-old myth of Paradise Lost, and a French equivalent of the award-winning film about the American nuclear tests, ‘Radio Bikini’.