07/30/2010 11:32 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

ReThink Interview: Lawrence Bender and Lucy Walker on Countdown to Zero and Nuclear Weapons

When the relatively big-budget documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc. (see my review here) were released, they were able to capitalize on the fact that there were already discussions and growing concerns about both climate change and our nation's dysfunctional food systems. Countdown to Zero, the new documentary produced by Lawrence Bender (who also produced An Inconvenient Truth) and directed by Lucy Walker (the Devil's Playground, Blindsight), faces the challenge of starting a conversation the nation currently isn't (but should be) having: how to eliminate the worsening threat of nuclear catastrophe caused by rogue states, accidents or terrorism.

Why are nuclear weapons so far off our collective radars when they retain the potential to extinguish millions of lives -- if not all life on the planet -- in mere minutes? Probably because many people think we have this nuclear problem licked, or that we're unable to grasp the possibility that we don't. But as Countdown to Zero illustrates with an abundance of evidence, the world is more in danger of a nuclear catastrophe now than it was during the Cold War because of rogue states, terrorism, unsecured nuclear material and the ever-present possibility of human error. And the only way to eliminate that threat completely is to destroy all nuclear weapons.

I had the opportunity to talk with Lawrence Bender and Lucy Walker about Countdown to Zero and some of the issues raised in the film. You can find excerpts from the interviews below.

Bender discusses why he decided to follow up An Inconvenient Truth with a film about nuclear weapons.

Walker on why the idea of "the Nuclear Club" -- that only a small number of nations will have the means and technology to build a nuclear weapon -- no longer applies.

Bender on why abolishing nuclear weapons is a nonpartisan issue.

Walker on why it is so easy to hide and smuggle nuclear material.

Bender on why low-probability events -- like an accidental nuclear launch or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill -- will inevitably happen unless the probability is eliminated entirely.

Walker and Bender talk about what they would ask Ronald Reagan about nuclear weapons if he were alive today.

Walker talks about Dr. Strangelove and what it was like conducting the last interview with Robert McNamara before he died.

Walker and Bender discuss what they would ask Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, if they could talk to him today.

Bender on getting to use the Radiohead song "Reckoner" to end Countdown to Zero and what it's like to have produced films that have made such a big impact on popular culture and language.

Walker on An Inconvenient Truth, Obama's efforts to abolish nuclear weapons and Albert Einstein's fears about nuclear weapons and human nature.

For more info on Countdown to Zero go here.

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