Just over forty years ago, on 28 March 1979, an accident occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the worst ever in the history of civilian nuclear power in the United States. Twelve days earlier, The China Syndrome had been released into movie theatres. Not least because its story had many parallels to the events unfolding on Three Mile Island, the film was widely referenced in reporting about the accident. The China Syndrome is a tense thriller with a decidedly feminist slant, dealing as it does with a female TV reporter who wants to break out of the human interest ghetto into hard news. The film was the product of the efforts of various politically engaged filmmakers, most prominent among them Jane Fonda, who starred in it and whose company IPC Films co-produced it. While aimed at, and successful with, mainstream cinema audiences, the film also was tied in with the anti-nuclear agenda of the Campaign for Economic Democracy, a grassroots organisation founded by Fonda’s then husband Tom Hayden. With its close ties to an activist organisation, its incredible timeliness, its suspenseful story and outstanding performances, this arguably is political filmmaking at its very best – and great entertainment, too.
The screening will be introduced by film historian Peter Krämer.
Peter Krämer is the author or editor of ten books, several of which deal with American cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. His latest book is the edited collection The Hollywood Renaissance (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).
Jane Fonda also stars in Coming Home, screening Sun 6 and Wed 9 Oct.