Containment (Documentary film)

About the film

Can we contain some of the deadliest, most long-lasting substances ever produced? Left over from the Cold War are a hundred million gallons of radioactive sludge, covering vast radioactive lands. Governments around the world, desperate to protect future generations, have begun imagining society 10,000 years from now in order to create monuments that will speak across the time. Part observational essay filmed in weapons plants, Fukushima and deep underground—and part graphic novel—Containment weaves between an uneasy present and an imaginative, troubled far future, exploring the idea that over millennia, nothing stays put.

About the directors

Containment is the second film directed by Peter Galison and Robb Moss. The two also directed Secrecy (2008), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and showed at Tribeca, South by Southwest and over two dozen other film festivals around the world. Examining the relationship between government secrecy, national security and democracy, Secrecy was reviewed in more than 20 newspapers, including The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and was screened by both the Congressional Record and the ACLU. 

Peter Galison

Peter Galison is a Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. Galison’s previous film on the moral-political debates over the H-bomb, Ultimate Weapon: The H-bomb Dilemma (with Pamela Hogan, 2002) has been shown frequently on the History Channel and is widely used in academic courses. In 1997, he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; won a 1998 Pfizer Award for Image and Logic as the best book that year in the History of Science; and in 1999 received the Max Planck and Humboldt Stiftung Prize. His books include How Experiments End (1987), Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps (2003), and Objectivity (with L. Daston, 2007) and he has worked extensively with de-classified material in his studies of physics in the Cold War. Galison’s work also features artistic collaborations, including partnering with South African artist William Kentridge on a multi-screen installation, “The Refusal of Time.”

See also Peter Galison’s Harvard homepage.

Robb Moss

Robb Moss is a filmmaker, professor and chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. Moss’s The Same River Twice (2003) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for a 2004 Independent Spirit Award and opened theatrically at Film Forum in New York City. Winning prizes in Nashville, Chicago, New England, and Alabama, TSRT was selected by the Chicago Reader as Best Documentary (and Best Cinematography) of 2003. His autobiographical and essay films, such as The Tourist and Riverdogs, have screened at the Museum of Modern Art, the Telluride Film Festival and IDFA. He has served as a festival juror at Sundance, San Francisco, Denver, Full Frame, Camden, Seattle, Chicago, New England, and Ann Arbor, is on the Board of Directors for ITVS, and works as a creative advisor at the Sundance Documentary labs.

See also Robb Moss’s Harvard homepage.

How should we protect yet-to-come
generations of humans on earth—
people who will not share
our language, our nations,
even our civilization?

Chyld King is editor and co-producer of Containment and is based in Boston, MA. He previously also edited and co-produced Moss and Galison’s film Secrecy (2008), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. King worked for several years with filmmaker Errol Morris, and was one of the editors of Morris’ Academy Award winning film The Fog of War. He has cut documentary projects for film and television, including episodes of God in America for PBS, American Experience’s film The Amish, and other projects that have aired on networks such as PBS, IFC, and Bravo.

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Reviews

How do you plan 10,000 years in advance? Containment asks whether we are adequately caring for future generations with current storage methods for radioactive waste. A visit to the nuclear ghost towns of Fukushima shows what will happen if we fail.
Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian
Peter Galison and Robb Moss remind us of the lingering threat of radioactive waste. What to do with it? How can we warn people centuries in the future about the danger of waste disposal sites? With inventive animation and incisive reporting, Moss and Galison aren’t going to make it any easier to sleep at night.
Peter Keough, The Boston Globe
The film...attempts to articulate the beautiful and complicated problem of how to render the future a part of the present. It offers glimpses of a future beyond our societal imagination...and goes beyond ordinary documentary filmmaking to bring forward this future image into the minds and sensibilities of its viewers. It is in attempting this communication with the audience beyond the here and now that the film has its greatest success.
Zoe Jones, Spook Magazine
I admire Containment for its zealous questioning of a situation that is ignored, misunderstood, and obviously—thanks in part to this film—urgent. I’ve been thinking about 10,000 years from now ever since.
Erin Trahan, WBUR’s The ARTery and The Independent Magazine
The way we tell stories about who we are, what we did and how we considered the consequences of our actions is moving and profound in Containment, told with investigative care, sadness, fury and poetry.
Andrew Lattimer, heyuguys.com
Three titles making their world premieres at Full Frame garnered plenty of buzz...Containment, Peter Galison and Robb Moss’ latest documentary, also taps into another controversy magnet—nuclear power. The directing duo aren’t strangers to hot-button topics. Their 2008 Sundance hit Secrecy chronicled the massive efforts by the U.S. government to classify data from the general population. Containment, about the scientific, moral and philosophical problems that surround the disposition of nuclear waste, is sure to spark a national debate.
Addie Morfoot, Variety
Alarmingly frank but refreshingly optimistic, Containment tells a great many inconvenient truths but its coda assures us that all is not lost. The future will come, but we will endure.
Phil W. Bayles, oneroomwithaview.com
Is nuclear power safe enough? This question is addressed in a toxic weave of stories of the Fukushima disaster, the Savannah River Site cleanup in South Carolina and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, punctuated by futurist musings in animation sequences. Rather than preaching, the filmmakers use the notion of waste-site markers designed to last 10,000 years to show the absurdity of permanent waste containment.
Chris Vitiello, Indy Week
The latest from Robb Moss and Peter Galison will have its world premiere at Full Frame. As it looks at the disposition of nuclear waste, it’s both broad and specific—it addresses the issue in locations around the world and features each instance in nuanced detail.
Sadie Tillery, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Director of Programming, featured on Doc Soup, POV/PBS

Screenings

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Producer/Directors Peter Galison & Robb Moss Editor/Co-Producer Chyld King Cinematographers Hervé Cohen,  Tim Cragg, Austin DeBesche, Leonard Retel Helmrich, Stephen McCarthy Animators Peter Kuper, David Lobser Composers Mike Einziger, Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans, Tristeza With support from National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, LEF Foundation, Film Study Center