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The Bangor 5
The Bangor 5 follows the federal case against five unlikely felons who broke into a highly sensitive U.S. Navy Trident nuclear submarine base housing one the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the country. The intruders breached security at the Kitsap-Bangor U.S. Naval Base near Seattle in 2009, by using a map they had downloaded from Google. The five used bolt cutters to cut through three chain link fences, and roamed the base undetected for more than four hours before penetrating a super-restricted "shoot to kill" zone where the nuclear warhead are reportedly stored in a maze of concrete bunkers. Ultimately, the five were apprehended by U.S. Marines at gunpoint. This story is a cross between "Cocoon" and SEAL Team 6 because, incredibly, this team of "commandos" turned out to include an 84 year old Roman Catholic nun, two Jesuit priests (one 82 years old) and two grandmothers who were only armed with the power of their moral conviction.
Why did they do it? All are longtime peace activists who say they acted as citizen weapons inspectors to expose America's "weapons of mass destruction" and to send a "wake-up" call to the world which, they believe, is sleepwalking toward, all but certain, nuclear annihilation. They hoped to trigger a national conversation about U.S. nuclear security policy, a holdover from the Cold War, which relies on a massive nuclear arsenal to deter enemies. The U.S. spends some $60 billion annually on nuclear arms, four times more than Russia, and far more than any other country. According to the activists, this huge expenditure is sending a clear message to other countries that a powerful nation must be a nuclear one and that, in turn, is contributing to proliferation and global instability. Nine nations are in the "nuclear club" today, and recent peer-reviewed scientific studies show that even a "limited" nuclear war, say between India and Pakistan, would create a global humanitarian catastrophe. The soot and smoke produced by fires would loft into the atmosphere, block sunlight, and turn the earth cold, dark and dry. Agriculture would suffer and an estimated one billion people would die of starvation, in addition to the tens of millions who would die in the war. The Bangor 5 maintain nuclear weapons violate international humanitarian law, the Nuremberg Principles and the U.S. Constitution. The five were tried, convicted, and sent to prison. They tell their story exclusively in this film.
I began shooting the film in January 2011 right after the five activists had been convicted. In their own words, Sister Anne Montgomery 84, Father William "Bix" Bichsel 82, Father Stephen Kelly 61, Susan Crane 67, and Lynne Greenwald 62, describe in detail how they executed the security breach as well as their hopes and fears even before moving forward with it. The five spent a year praying about the action, understanding full well it would most probably result in prison time. All have spent time in prison before for opposing nuclear weapons with Father Stephen Kelly spending the most to date: seven and a half years behind bars, most of it in solitary confinement. At its heart this film is about five compelling people who believe so passionately in the cause of nuclear disarmament they were willing to put their lives on the line in an effort to engage the American public in an issue virtually absent from the public discourse.
The five senior citizen activists have all recently been released from prison having served their time. We need to raise a minimum of $20,000 to continue to follow our characters to paint fuller portraits of who they are. These funds will pay for travel expenses, camera crews, an associate producer; to rent camera, sound, and lighting equipment, and pay for transcription services. If we do not reach that donation goal, we will not receive any of the money and it will be returned to our donors. However, in order to move to the next phase of production and assemble a rough cut of the film we will need to raise an additional $30,000 to rent editing equipment and hire an offline editor. All this to say that our overall target is $50,000. We hope you will also consider making a "matching grant" donation.
The Bangor 5 called their action on the naval base a "Plowshares" action. Plowshares is an international movement that follows the injunction of the Prophet Isaiah who urged nations to abolish war and turn "swords into plowshares". The five seniors are embraced by a community of thousands of activists in the Pacific Northwest who have waged a campaign over four decades to raise awareness on the lethality of the 8 Trident nuclear submarines home ported in their backyard at the Kitsap-Bangor base. One Trident submarine, with its full complement of missiles, has the capacity to destroy every city in the northern hemisphere. This larger story of the activists' 40 year campaign is also woven into the film through never- before- seen archival footage which the activists have generously allowed me to use.
During their federal trial The Bangor 5 planned to challenge the "legality" of nuclear weapons. However, they were not allowed to make that case in court. A growing body of academic scholarship, as well as respected military and legal experts support the activists' viewpoint. At trial the Center for Constitutional Rights was part of the defense team and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark testified on behalf of the defendants. In the part of the film dealing with the trial, The Bangor 5 and their supporters make the case they were barred from making in court.
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