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Canada’s Documentary Essentials: ‘If You Love This Planet’

Dir. Terre Nash, 1982

Courtesy NFB


“Well,” director Terre Nash told viewers of the 55th Academy Awards ceremony as she picked up her statuette for best documentary short, “you really know how to show a foreign agent a good time.”

Nash couldn’t help but note the irony of her Oscar triumph for If You Love This Planet, a 25-minute film whose fervent anti-nuclear message was so disconcerting to the U.S. Department of Justice that it was officially declared “foreign political propaganda.”

If You Love This Planet hardly suffered a lack of potentially objectionable material. Filmed by Nash, the physician and activist Dr. Helen Caldicott delivers a lecture to a group of justifiably worried-looking students. The doc can’t conceal her loathing of the powers that be as she describes the potential realities of nuclear war and the fundamental insanity of the arms race. But perhaps the thing that really rattled those officials is exactly what will be most shocking to viewers: the sight of the burnt and scarred bodies and faces of Hiroshima survivors. Arriving at the conclusion of If You Love This Planet, these indelible images amplify the terrifying power of a film that remains one of cinema’s strongest statements against nuclear insanity.

Read more POV picks for Canada’s Documentary Essentials!

Watch If You Love This Planet below:

If You Love This Planet, Terre Nash, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Jason Anderson writes about film and music for such publications as Cinema Scope, Sight and Sound, Uncut, Movie Entertainment and the Toronto Star. He teaches criticism and feature writing at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University and is the director of programming for the Kingston Canadian Film Festival.

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