Title ID 5225Collection ID722
TitleChange Direction
Date1991 - 1992
CollectionH.K Lewenhak
Genre/TypeProfessionalInstitutionalIndependent Artist/Film-makerNon-fictionActuality/FactualDocu-Drama
ThemeWartime and Military
KeywordsAccidents Labour Uniforms Second World War (1939-1945) Workers Political Demonstrations Trains Railways Industry Children Wars
NationalEngland United Kingdom Europe United States
ProductionH. K. Lewenhak
DirectorH. K. Lewenhak
Commissioning bodyInternational Peace Bureau
Funding bodyBectu Peace & Environment Committee
NarratorBruce Kent, President of the International Peace Bureau
ParticipantsWorld Council of Churches, Anti-Slavery International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Worldwide Fund for Nature, INFACT USA, National Film Board of Canada, Pacific Stories Partnership, SOS Network Trust & Metrolink, Municipal Transport Amsterdam, and Slootermee Primary School provided kind help.
FormatColour Sound
Duration13 min. 51 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


A protest film urging for the need to "change direction" with regards to nuclear weapons manufacture and nuclear power. The film, made for the International Peace Bureau by BECTU Peace & Environment Committee in the early 1990s, includes television and news footage of nuclear disasters, weapons manufacture, and mining for uranium.


The UN flag and a quote by Mostafa Tolba, of the UN Conference on Environment & Development, are seen. It reads; 'Our best - perhaps our last chance to save our earth.' Narration by Bruce Kent, President of the International Peace Bureau, begins; 'In this year of the earth summit the nuclear threat still hangs over the future of our planet. Britain launched the first of four Trident submarines...' News footage of the launch follows. Kent explains that the submarines have cost £3 billion, that each carries 16 missiles of 8 kilotonne warheads, enough to cause 16,000 Hiroshima. Black and white footage of Japanese men and women walking through the destruction after the attack, and doctors treating burnt children, follows. 'Who is the enemy to be destroyed?,' asks Kent, 'The whole human race?' Scenes of American scientists testing nuclear warheads in Nevada and the French in Polynesia follow. The French halted their testing in the South Seas in 1992 after fierce and prolonged opposition. A nuclear explosion is seen during testing out to sea, seen from an aircraft above.

Attention turns to nuclear power stations, which represent 'a constant hazard.' Footage of a damaged power station in Russia, which recently leaked iodine and other gasses into the atmosphere, is shown. Footage of Chernobyl after the nuclear explosion, which blasted radioactive particles across Europe and claimed hundreds of direct victims, follows. Workers wear masks and protective clothing. The Hanford Site US nuclear plant in Eastern Washington is seen. Tom Baley is interviewed, explaining how people were not evacuated; 'they said to people here, "you're safe",' he says. Kent explains that Britain is also subject to the ever present threat of reactors. Nuclear waste remains a danger for hundreds of years, with no adequate disposal procedures. Plutonium is said to be the most lethal. Workers in protective clothing are seen at a reactor. Disused reactors are also seen from the air. Mining for uranium, the raw material for plutonium is shown. Miners work underground with drills and excavators work in a large quarry. Canada is said to have the richest ore deposits. An interviewee describes the perils of nuclear waste disposal. She says the waste would need to be contained for 200,000 years, but concrete containers stored at Cluff Lake, which were supposed to be safe for 100 years, began leaking after only 6. Kent explains that Canada is the largest exporter of uranium, but ore is mined, refined and concentrated on all six continents. A map appears, stars flash up marking countries which mine and export uranium as Kent names them.

The destructive consequences of nuclear energy are seen, as a woman cries, holding a photograph of her children in Eastern Europe, others are seen in the Middle East, Japan and Africa. Kent explains that nuclear power 'presents a dead end. If man is to survive, we must change direction.' The phrase Change Direction! is seen on screen. Scenes of protests at the Trident missile launch follow, during which a man dressed in overalls marked with a large peace sign, runs disrupts the launch and jumps into the water.

An analogy is made between nuclear energy and the end of widespread slavery, when the people of the world decided the trade in human beings was rejected as 'a dead end'. New technologies were developed and the world 'changed direction'. Farming scenes follow, illustrating how mechanisation enabled freedom for slaves. 'We can turn away from nuclear arms and power,' says Kent, 'with new technologies and policies'. Further Trident launch scenes follow, as seen over the roofs of houses, as workers on arms contracts are loosing their jobs. Strike scenes follow, as hundreds of workers walk and cycle along a street in defence of 400 jobs that will be lost. Kent explains that after the ending of the Cold War, the weapons industry suffered from surplus capacity. Companies had to diversify and defence contractors had to convert to manufacturing more useful products. Signs reading VSEL, Siemens, and General Electric are shown. The Director of the Centre for Defence Information speaks about General Electric making weapons for their own profit, and how consumers boycotted and petitioned against their involvement with weapons manufacture. INFACT Executive Director Nancy Cole describes the need for GE to pull out of the weapons business, to send a signal to all other companies. She describes the GB bulb boycott, the involvement of the medical field and religious congregations. Picket lines and protests are seen, where people hold banners by a road. Cole insists the action is having an effect; GE have stopped making triggers for nuclear bombs. Further protest scenes in Canada and Polynesia, against mining for uranium and testing nuclear weapons in the South Seas follow, which have also had an effect.

Alternative uses for new technologies and a redundant workforce are explained. A Scottish naval shipyard is seen, at which workers are refurbishing old underground trains and and building new ones. Kent advocates the manufacture of a high speed electric railway system across Europe to reduce oil-burning forms of transport and redirect employment and investment. Children get on a tram in Amsterdam, they are seen singing together inside, travelling through the city, described as 'showing the way' for cities like Sheffield and Manchester. 'We can change direction is we drive at it hard enough.'

Related resources


Uranium Mining in Canada

"In Canada, uranium ores first came to public attention in the early 1930s when the Eldorado Gold Mining Company began operations at Port Radium, Northwest Territories, to recover radium. A refinery to produce radium was built the following year at Port Hope, Ontario, some 5000 km away."