Two Minutes to Midnight: Nuclear Cinema

02 Mar 2018 – 18 Mar 2018 | GOMA | Cinema A

Ever since the unprecedented destructive power of the atom bomb was released upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, artists have explored fears around nuclear armament and the looming potential for total self-annihilation. 'Two Minutes to Midnight' is a cinema program that considers how filmmakers have grappled with the moral and logistical questions raised by humanity's harnessing of nuclear power.

As nuclear stockpiles grow internationally and events such as the 2011 Fukushima disaster shock the world, it is clear that such quandaries do not reside solely in the past. Global tensions may fluctuate in scale but there is a circularity to the principal issues that prevails — clearly evident in the themes that recur across many of these films and the continuing relevance of so much of the artistic commentary. 

The program encompasses multiple genres and cinematic forms, including gripping depictions of human survival (Barefoot Gen 1983), merciless satires (Dr. Strangelove 1964), unflinching dystopian prophecies (Letters from a Dead Man 1986), and radioactively tinged science fiction (La Jetée 1962). Using the frameworks of traditional feature films, animation, experimental and short cinema, these works explore a topic that is frightening, mesmerising, and almost unimaginable.

The program title 'Two Minutes to Midnight' is derived from the time placed upon the symbolic Doomsday Clock in 1953, after both major superpowers tested thermonuclear weapons within months of each other. This was the closest to midnight, which represents the end of human civilisation, that the Doomsday Clock had ever been set, until the perceived failure of international leadership to ease global nuclear tensions returned it there in January 2018 — where it presently remains.

List of Works

Them! 1954
Ikimono no kiroku (I Live in Fear) 1955
Hiroshima mon amour 1959
On the Beach 1959
La Jetée 1962
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964
The War Game 1965
Wizards 1977
The Atomic Café 1982
Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen) 1983
Testament 1983
Threads 1984
Письма мёртвого человека (Letters from a Dead Man) 1986
When the Wind Blows 1986
Miracle Mile 1988
Kuroi ame (Black Rain) 1988
Kibō no Kuni (The Land of Hope) 2012
Shin Godzilla 2016
The Bomb 2016

QAGOMA acknowledges the generous assistance of the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra and the British Film Institute, London in providing materials for this program. Program curated by Robert Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque.