Downwinders

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Did the Government kill John Wayne?

"DANDELIONS" CLIP

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THE TRAILER

"AEC MINUTES" CLIP

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"DID YOU EVER SEE THE CONQUEROR?"  CLIP

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Downwinders
Did the Government kill John Wayne?

The questionable things our government will do in the name of "national security" is not something new.

 

It started a long time ago.

From January 1951 through July 1962, the United States tested over 100 atomic bombs in the Nevada desert, covering the local region with radiation. Nearby communities began seeing increased levels of radiation-caused diseases. But no one would listen to their plight until rumors began circulating that one of the victims was American hero, John Wayne, who had been in the area shooting the ill-fated film The Conqueror for Howard Hughes... a film later named “one of the worst films ever made.” If you thought the US government’s willingness to use “national security” as an excuse to hurt its citizens was something new, see where it all began when they used the people of the southwest and beyond as human “guinea pigs.” Featuring scientists, politicians, victims, and activists like Preston J Truman, Michelle Thomas, Dr. Joseph Lyon and more.
"Please God, don't let us have killed John Wayne!"

- Top Scientist at the DEFENSE NUCLEAR AGENCY, People Magazine, Nov. 1980

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MEET THE CHARACTERS

DR. JOSEPH LYON

JAY TRUMAN

JAMES D'ARC

Dr. Lyon was one of the main researchers at the University of Utah on the effects of fallout on the people in Southern Utah and beyond.  His studies on leukemia and thyroid disease and cancer are often cited in arguments against above ground nuclear testing, although he has stayed neutral in the arguments for and against it.

Preston J Truman is a life-long activist on behalf of fallout victims in the United States. He has worked tirelessly for over 40 years with politicians and activists to get care for people "who were nuked by their own government," as he puts it. He is currently working to expand the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Bill (RECA) to include proper medical coverage.

James D'Arc, author of When Hollywood Came to Town, is an expert on films produced in Utah during the 20th century.  He also curates the Arts and Communication Archive at Brigham Young University as well as hosting an annual series of historically significant films at the university.

MICHELLE THOMAS

TONA HENDERSON

BLAIR BENTLEY

Michelle Thomas is the daughter of Irma Thomas, one of the earliest activists sounding the warning about the effects of nuclear fallout on communities in the Southwest.  Michelle herself was a victim of multiple radiation related diseases including polymyositis and cancer, which forced her to forgo a promising career as a performer. "Now," she says, "I get to perform all the time...  I sing at a lot of funerals.

Tona Henderson is the head of the Downwinders in Gem County, Idaho.  A government study in the 1980s revealed that large amounts of Iodine-131, an isotope created by the bomb tests, had caused many cancers in Idaho.  During the testing years, Iodine-131 would typically rise high into the atmosphere because of its chemical properties and travel much farther than heavier isotopes.  Weather patterns caused it to rain out over Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and several other western states.  These states are not covered by RECA.

For his Master's thesis, Blair Bentley did a study of residual amounts of Cesium-137 in the soil in southern Utah.  This isotope is only created by atomic bombs and so he was able to devise which parts were hit with the most radiation.  His data identified J's hometown of Enterprise, UT as being the community with the highest amounts of Cesium-137.  We asked him to take soil samples at several of the shooting locations of The Conqueror to be analyzed for Cesium- 137.  See the film to find out the results!

DAVE TIMOTHY

ALLAN PALMER

Dave Timothy got thyroid cancer at age 19 after his home town was hit by fallout from the Sedan shot in 1962.  The Sedan shot was part of a the Plowshare program that was designed to use "Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNEs)" for construction projects like man-made harbors, canals, and an early form of fracking.  For the people in Dave's hometown, it was anything but peaceful.

Allan Palmer runs the Atomic Testing Museum and has an extensive knowledge of the history of the testing of atomic bombs at the Nevada Test Site.  We asked him to give us a short tour of the museum in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Radiobiologist

Founder of Downwinders Inc.

Activist/Survivor

Cancer Survivor

Head of Gem County Downwinders

Radiation Physicist

Film Historian

CEO Atomic Testing Museum

ABOUT US

TIM SKOUSEN - Director, Editor, Composer

 

Tim Skousen is an award winning filmmaker with both narratives and documentaries in his filmography.  DOWNWINDERS is his third feature documentary after the critically lauded films ZERO PERCENT and RAIDERS!  He travels around the world teaching film workshops in remote locations and is a commercial director for Moxie Pictures.

TYLER BASTIAN - Co-Director, Producer

 

Tyler is a sometimes filmmaker and full time educator.  He recently started a highly respected charter school in his home state of Utah called ROOTS that focuses on an education that includes farming in its curriculum.  His previous foray into filmmaking was the short film EVERYTHING IS INCREDIBLE that was named one of Vimeo's Top 12 Films of 2012

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Feel free to contact us with any questions:  downwindersdoc@gmail.com