On the 21st of January, 1968, a fire on board an American B-52 bomber caused it to crash near Thule Air Base in the Danish territory of Greenland, one of the coldest places on earth.
The crew evacuated to safety, the wreckage of the abandoned plane subsequently sank in North Star Bay. Local Greenlanders and Danish air base workers rushed to the scene to help, but once it became known that the bomber had been carrying four nuclear missiles, the emergency clean-up operation, labelled ‘Project Crested Ice’, rapidly became one of contamination control. Under difficult conditions, the US military shipped out huge amounts of polar sea ice.
Thule’s position was of immense strategic importance to the US during the Cold War, and its B52 bombers flew continuously around the area carrying nuclear payloads in an operation known as "Chrome Dome". Nuclear weapons had been prohibited in Danish territory since 1957, so these missions had been a US military secret.
In 1986 Poul Brink, a young journalist at a Danish radio station, meets Marius Schmidt, a former firefighter at the Thule US military base. Schmidt and his friends have suffered skin disorders since their exposure to radiation in the contaminated zone and some are even dying of cancer. Brink has stumbled upon one of the greatest lies in 20th century cold war politics.
This one-off screening marks the launch of the Leeds programme: '1968 in the popular imagination'. Part of a global film festival, organised by the Radical Film Network, that examines the legacy of events in 1968.
For this screening, which takes place on World Press Freedom Day, we're delighted to be joined by author and campaigner Granville Williams, from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, to discuss the film.
The Idealist (Idealisten)
Dir. Christina Rosendahl
(2015 / Denmark / 114 minutes)