Culture and Nuclear Weapons at Tribeca Film Festival

Shifting Cultural Perceptions

Since the Nuclear Freeze movement of 1980s ended along with the Cold War, there has been little popular attention paid to the dangers nuclear weapons pose to humanity. This is especially worrying because many experts believe we are on the brink of a new nuclear arms race. But beyond the nuclear security and arms control fields, the general public has not taken much notice of the threats we still face. Until recently, that is.

Late last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Tribeca Film Festival, a place filled with creative talent, influential people and powerful stories — and I can tell you first hand that there is a ripple of renewed energy and interest in our issue that is taking shape in ways we have not seen in decades.

The theme of nuclear weapons threats was woven through the myriad of films and events: from the opening weekend featuring Eric Schlosser’s documentary Command and Control, to the panel discussion at the Games and Media Summit, to a Tribeca Talk with Michael Douglas and finally, to Smriti Keshari’s multi-media installation the bomb – funded in part by Ploughshares Fund – which closed the festival.

This new energy and interest is not just rippling through Tribeca. About two years ago, Ploughshares Fund began exploring ways to foster innovation and collabaoration, to spark new ideas about how we can tackle the wicked problem of nuclear weapons.This thinking that led to the creation of the N Square collaborative – a joint initiative we fund along with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Skoll Global Threats Fund. N Square has made great progress sending ripples of interest through new audiences at places like TED, PopTech, Games for Change and more.

We continue to dip our toes in this arena of cultural change trying to get more – and younger – people to understand what many security experts already believe: that nuclear weapons are a liability, not an asset, and they do nothing to address 21st century threats.

Ever the optimist, I think we’re onto something. Tapping into popular culture has tremendous power to change hearts and minds. I firmly believe that we – Ploughshares Fund, our grantees and you – can make this ripple a tidal wave."