Title: Downwind (2023)    
Director: Douglas Brian Miller  //  Mark Shapiro    
Writer: Warren Etheredge  //  Mark Shapiro
Studio: Backlot Docs

IMDb Plot: Chronicles the nuclear testing that happened in Mercury, Nevada where 928 nuclear weapons were detonated between 1951 - 1992 and the people who were affected from the radioactive fallout of those tests.    

Joe Says: Downwind is a documentary whose message needs to be broadcast far and wide. One that demands to be seen and acted upon. 

There are certain documentaries that, when released, illuminate such shocking truths that anger and sadness and hopelessness are all superseded from the sheer amazement of it all. The all-encompassing wonder that such an event occurred. And the challenges offered within.

Downwind is one of those documentaries. One whose message needs to be broadcast far and wide. One that demands to be seen and acted upon. To have the rage that this story unleashes be molded into a constructive resolution. And to finally allow healing to commence.

The “event” in question is actually a series. Nine hundred and twenty-eight if you want an exact number. This is how many nuclear tests were conducted. On American soil. In the state of Nevada. A little over 60 miles outside of Las Vegas. 

That number again is 928

During these tests, from 1951 to 1992, radioactive particles and gasses were spread in the atmosphere before falling to earth exposing millions of American citizens who happened to live downwind to radiation fallout. This fallout has caused cancer, created birth defects, and has permanently corrupted the very soil. 

Downwind documentary review by Joe Kucharski

Co-directed by Mark Shapiro (formerly of LAIKA animation studios) and cinematographer Douglas Brian Miller, Downwind documents the ravaging effects these tests have wrought upon the earth and society. Patrick Wayne, son of the Duke, believes that the Howard Hughes-produced movie The Conqueror was filmed on irritated soil in Utah. Nearly half the cast reportedly died of cancer related to the fallout from a test a year prior to filming, including John Wayne himself. Claudia Peterson, a social worker from St. George, Utah tells the terrible tale of how almost every member of her immediate and extended family has suffered from a form of cancer, all simply by living their lives downwind of the tests. Ian Zabarte, of the Shoshone Nation, speaks of the disruption to his Peoples’ way of life and how they can no longer access sites that are vital to their religion and history, not to mention the pollution of irritated water in the land.

These are only some of the tales presented by Shapiro and Miller. 

Narrated by none other than President Bartlett himself, Martin Sheen is no stranger to activism. His imploring gravitas, and calm, reasoning tone is pitch perfect for the docu. Other highlights include interviews from comedian Lewis Black and Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas. Douglas is the world’s longest-serving United Nations Messenger Of Peace who has dedicated his life to the elimination of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

Martin Sheen being handcuffed for anti-nuclear protests in Nevada
Martin Sheen being arrested in Nevada for anti-nuclear protesting

Through all the interviews – the tears and the abject anger within – Miller and Shapiro ask how this could have been done so close to population centers, why such a large number of tests (928!) were conducted, and how could this info not have been more widely shared? How could the United States’ government disregard the lives and livelihood of everyone downwind? 

Downwind is more than an exposé. This is a call to action. 

Downwind is a documentary that demands to be witnessed. 

To learn more and to take action, visit the Downwind website at Backlot Docs

One thought on “Downwind

  1. I hear there is a major documentary about the making of The Conqueror and the effects that the atomic testing had on the cast and crew as well as the town of St George Utah, that’s coming out this autumn. So it seems this is a topic that is of interest lately.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s