#tbt Oscar Gets Political with NFB Doc

By Pat Mullen

This week’s throwback is a look at documentary history that seems all too relevant with the state of affairs south of the border. On April 11, 1983 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the 55th annual Academy Awards were a historic night. Gandhi won eight Oscars including Best Picture and Meryl Streep scooped her second Oscar with a Best Actress win for Sophie’s Choice.

The night also saw two wins for Canadian documentaries. John Zaritsky’s Just Another Missing Kid in the feature category and, in Documentary (Short Subject), Terre Nash (spelled Terri Nash in Academy records) and Edward Le Lorrain won for If You Love this Planet. Planet, an eco doc and precursor to An Inconvenient Truth, features Dr. Helen Caldicott, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility in the USA, delivering a passionate lecture on the consequences of nuclear war. Planet, however, had a bumpy road to the stage.

The U.S. Department of Justice labelled the doc foreign propaganda and required the film to run with a disclaimer when it screened in the United States. The publicity didn’t hurt, Nash and Le Lorrain later joked about the propaganda war and thanked the Department of Justice for promoting the film with the latter holding up his award and declaring it an “Oscar for peace” on the Academy stage. How’s that for an Oscar campaign?

Read Terre Nash’s acceptance speech and watch If You Love this Planet below:

Well, you really know how to show a foreign agent a good time. For their tremendous effort in promoting If You Love This Planet. I’d like to thank the U.S. Department of Justice. I’d like to thank the Academy, the National Film Board of Canada, especially the Women’s Studio under the direction of Kathleen Shannon. Also Jackie Newell, the late Karl du Plessis, and everyone who worked on this film. Our American distributor, Mitch Block of Direct Cinema. My family and friends in Vancouver and Montreal. And above all, I’d like to thank Dr. Helen Caldicott, the focus and the inspiration of this film, a mother and a physician who’s dedicated her life to the peace of the world. Thank you.
(Video of speech not available.)

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