Jay, a veteran producer and co-founder of the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, directed Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows. He will helm How to Stop Nuclear War, while Earl Katz (Hacking Democracy) and Rob Johnson (Taxi to the Dark Side) will executive produce. 

Daniel Ellsberg

“The hidden reality I aim to expose is that for over fifty years, all out thermonuclear war has been a catastrophe waiting to happen. No policies in human history have more deserved to be recognize as immoral. Whether Americans, Russians and other humans can rise to the challenge of reversing these policies and eliminating the danger of near-term extinction remains to be seen. I choose to join with others in acting as if that is still possible.”

“How to Stop a Nuclear War” comes at a time when the peril of deliberate or accidental nuclear war are as great as during the height of the Cold War. The difference is that in the ’80s, there was a massive movement demanding the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. Today it’s barely on the radar as climate change understandably dominates the discourse. 

Nuclear war and climate change are both existential threats and are inextricably related because nuclear winter would occur soon after nuclear war. Nuclear Winter would be a period that scientists believe would follow a large nuclear explosion, when there would be very little light or heat and nothing would grow in the world.

The documentary “How to Stop a Nuclear War”, based on Ellsberg’s powerful book, takes it to the next step. What can be done to reduce the risk?

We weave Dan’s personal story of disillusionment and horror during his days as a nuclear war planner at Rand, with his history of the “institutional madness” and profit making that was and is at the root of U.S. nuclear war strategy. This creates the context for an overall structure that will explore concrete steps that if implemented, would reduce the risk of nuclear annihilation. The history is directly linked to what urgently needs to be done now. 

Dan is at the center of the piece, and we will include interviews and scenes shot in all the nuclear powers (including Russia and China), with both experts and ordinary people, many of whom live near ICBM silos. Defenders of American nuclear war plans will be included to flesh out the fullness of the debate. 

We plan to create a buzz about the film at festivals and screenings at the U.N., Capitol Hill and Wall St. We will organize similar screenings in capitals in other countries. A global grass roots campaign will use the film to help facilitate a rational debate about nuclear weapons. The film will be a theatrical feature and a three hour series for a streamer. 

Acclaimed actor Emma Thompson will narrate the film

I was terrified of nuclear weapons when I was in my teens – I protested and marched and argued about the insanity of Mutual Assured Destruction for years, until some cloud came over my eyes and I stopped being frightened in the same way.

Perhaps it was the spectre of climate crisis that made it more difficult to perceive the ever-present, cataclysmic threat of the nuclear apocalypse. But that fear is back now and the clearer I am helped to understand it by Daniel Ellsberg and Paul Jay, the greater it becomes.

The only thing you can do with fear is be active in some way.
Making the connection between the climate crisis movement and the anti-nuclear movement has never been more essential. Between us, we can – to quote Ellsberg – prevent this from happening.

We have to start now, today and never stop until these weapons have been outlawed for the murderous evil that they are

Noam Chomsky wrote about “How to Stop Nuclear War”:

Incredibly, there is now casual discussion of nuclear war as a policy option to be contemplated, and there are even actions underway that may enhance this unthinkable prospect. 

No one is better placed to rescue us from this folly than Daniel Ellsberg.  Bringing his classic “Doomsday Machine” to a broader audience will be a major step towards averting catastrophe before it is too late.

Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell:

“How to Stop a Nuclear War”, from noted filmmaker Paul Jay, whom I’ve known for many years, is a thunderclap amidst the dark clouds of an impending nuclear holocaust.  Needs to be seen by Members of Congress and their staffs, by the principals of the NSC, and by every American citizen. 

Stripped as the world is now of all hard-won, Cold War nuclear weapons treaties, confronted again with military leaders who believe there is usefulness to these heinous weapons — indeed, with nations even spending billions to ensure and enhance their devastating killing power — we stand on the brink of extinction.  The climate crisis will be an anti-climax with no human soul left to endure it because nuclear weapons will have beat it to the punch. 

About Paul Jay

The director of the film is Paul Jay, an award winning journalist and filmmaker. He is past chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada and was the founding chair of Hot Docs! Canadian International Documentary Festival. He is the host of theAnalysis.news.

 Paul was the co-creator and co-executive producer of Face Off and counterSpin, nightly prime time debate programs that ran for ten years on CBC Newsworld. 

Paul’s feature docs include “Lost in Las Vegas” (A&E), “Return to Kandahar” (CBC) and “Never-Endum-Referendum” (CTV, RadioCanada). Paul is best known for his feature documentary “Hitman Hart, wrestling with shadows” (A&E, BBC, ARTE, TVO). 

It’s ok to suspend disbelief at a wrestling show.
It’s not ok in a real world facing the twin threats of climate crisis and nuclear war.

Paul Jay