Marshalling Peace

Autumn Bordner
May 10, 2016

Follow the Marshall Islands' legal team as they head to battle with some of the most powerful countries in the world, in an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

From 1946-1958, 67 nuclear weapons were detonated in the Marshall Islands by the United States as part of the U.S. nuclear testing program, equivalent to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs being detonated every day.  The tests had severe consequences for the affected people including sickness; birth defects; and severe irradiation of the islands, resulting in the abrupt and traumatic removal of the people living there. Now, decades later, in order to make sure no other nation experiences the same horror of nuclear weapons, the Marshall Islands has filed lawsuits against the United States and the other nuclear weapons holding states for failure to comply with their obligations to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This documentary follows representatives of the tiny nation of the Marshall Islands in their legal battle against these nuclear weapons holding super powers. At the same time, the film explores the devastating effects of the U.S. nuclear testing program on the Marshallese people.


From the Director

During production of this film, I had the opportunity to travel to the Marshall Islands with fellow members of the K1 Project. While in the Marshall Islands, I saw firsthand the extent of the suffering still being caused by the nuclear testing program.

It hardly seems possible that the story of the nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands is so unknown. That 67 nuclear weapons could be detonated on populated islands, without the world at large being aware of it. And yet, the very fact that the Marshallese story is so obscure highlights one of the fundamental challenges to addressing nuclear weapons’ issues: People simply do not know enough to care. The K1 Project seeks, through this film, to address this challenge by giving voice to the Marshallese victims of the nuclear testing program.

But the Marshallese have more to teach us than the destructivity of nuclear weapons. They can also teach us important lessons about the resilience of the human spirit and about the courage to take a stand for what is right, even if the odds are insurmountable. 

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been in force since 1970, with the requirement that the nuclear armed nations engage in good faith negotiations to pursue disarmament. And yet, today, 45 years later, the nuclear weapon states have failed to make meaningful moves towards disarmament. On the contrary, many are modernizing their nuclear weapons, ensuring that their stockpiles will remain potent into the future. 

The Marshall Islands is a tiny developing nation with next to no influence on the international stage. It is a nation that is largely economically dependent on the United States and that is struggling to find the resources to take care of its own nuclear victims. And yet, acting for welfare of the world, the Marshall Islands has chosen to stand up and hold the nuclear weapons holding states accountable for their inaction. The Marshall Islands filed lawsuits in April 2014 against the United States and the other 8 nuclear weapons holding states for their failure to comply with their obligations to pursue disarmament under the NPT. Unwilling to accept the chance of another society being crippled by a nuclear weapons strike, this tiny island nation has stepped up to do battle against that hulking Goliath menacing all of humanity: the world’s nuclear stockpile. 

In sharing the story of this tiny island nation’s incredible courage, “Marshalling Peace” hopes to inspire similar courage in the audience. It hopes to inspire the viewer to follow the example of the Marshall Islands and engage with this critical topic. The film seeks to convey to the viewer that even though the problem of nuclear weapons is vast and complex, and even though their voice might be small, they should not be afraid to get involved in the discussion. In this battle, every voice joining the discussion to find solutions matters. After all, though the battle against nuclear weapons will not be won overnight, to paraphrase Albus Dumbledore, perhaps it will merely take someone else who, like the Marshall Islands, is prepared to fight what seems a losing battle next time to deter the threat again, and again. And if people continue to engage in this issue, to work towards solutions to mitigate the risk, perhaps the world will never again know the horror of nuclear weapons.