The Strangest Dream
The inspiring story of Joseph Rotblat and the efforts of the Pugwash Conferences to halt nuclear proliferation.
Directed by Eric Bednarski
Produced by Kent Martin
Written by: Eric Bednarski & Barry Cowling
Cinematography: Nigel Markham
Editor: Angela Baker
Sound Design: Alex Salter
Original Music: David Christensen
A National Film Board of Canada Production
When the U.S. government brought the world's greatest scientists together to build the first atomic bomb, nuclear physicist Joseph Rotblat was among them. But his conscience would not allow him to continue, and he became the only member of the Manhattan Project to leave on moral grounds. Branded a traitor and spy, Rotblat went from designing atomic bombs to researching the medical uses of radiation. Together with Bertrand Russell he helped create the modern peace movement, and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize.
"An emotionally and politically powerful, anti-nuclear weapons film." Barton Bernstein, Professor of History, Stanford University, Author, "The Atomic Bomb: The Critical Issues"
The Strangest Dream tells the story of Joseph Rotblat, the history of nuclear weapons, and the efforts of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs - an international movement Rotblat co-founded - to halt nuclear proliferation. The first Pugwash conference took place in the small Nova Scotia fishing village from which it draws its name. This film brings to light the group's behind-the-scenes role in defusing some of the tensest moments of the Cold War.
The story takes us from the site of the first nuclear test, in New Mexico, to Cairo, where contemporary Pugwash scientists meet under the cloud of nuclear proliferation, and to Hiroshima, where we see survivors of the first atomic attack. Featuring interviews with contemporaries of Rotblat, members of the Pugwash movement, and passionate public figures including Senator Roméo Dallaire, The Strangest Dream demonstrates the renewed threat represented by nuclear weapons, while encouraging hope through the example of morally engaged scientists and citizens.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2008
DVD ISBN: 0-7722-1343-7
VHS ISBN: 0-7722-1344-5
"Recognizing the terrible dangers posed by the development of nuclear weapons, Joseph Rotblat worked tirelessly and courageously for nearly six decades to avert catastrophe. In The Strangest Dream, his vital work in building the Pugwash movement, championing nuclear disarmament, and promoting world peace stands out against the tragic backdrop of nations caught up in a feverish nuclear arms race. But as this moving and excellent documentary reminds us, his work was not in vain. Viewers will learn much from this story of dedication to humane values in a world at war."
Dr. Lawrence Wittner, Professor, Department of History, State University of New York at Albany, Author, Struggle Against the Bomb
"An important addition to the history of the atomic bomb and a timely reminder that individuals of integrity can make a differnce if they are willing to stand for what they believe in."
Jim Riccio, Nuclear Policy Analyst, Greenpeace
"An emotionally and politically powerful, anti-nuclear weapons film, focusing on the saintly, inspiring Joseph Rotblat. He was a man of profound moral commitment, who emphasized by his activities over many years his deeply felt obligation to humanity. He was a gentle, but forceful, crusader against nuclear weapons--a man who should be long remembered and greatly valued."
Barton Bernstein, Professor of History, Stanford University, Author, The Atomic Bomb: The Critical Issues
"The Cold War ended two decades ago but the nuclear arms race that it fueled has continued unabated. That nuclear weapons have not been used in anger since August 1945 is in no small way due to the tireless work of physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash Movement that he supported and led for decades. Every student of the Cold War, who is not already fully informed about Rotblat and Pugwash, must see The Strangest Dream if he or she is to understand the critical role that Rotblat and the Pugwash Movement played in preventing nuclear war. It is not too much to say that this gentle, brilliant, dedicated and determined physicist was first among a small band of scientists who helped to stymie the mad plans of nuclear warriors."
Martin J. Sherwin, Professor of History, George Mason University, Author, A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies
"An inspiring film about a remarkable man! Joseph Rotblat was one of the truly heroic figures of the 20th century. But, sadly, few even recognize his name today. When Joe learned that Germany was not developing an atomic bomb, he left the Manhattan Project. He was the only scientist to do so. That same integrity and decency carried him through a lifetime's struggle to abolish nuclear weapons, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. The Strangest Dream chronicles the life of this extraordinary man, brilliantly capturing the profound humanity that enabled him to pursue his fight in the face of personal tragedy and overwhelming odds. Those who don't know Joseph Rotblat's story are in for a tremendous treat."
Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University, Author, Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America
"Rarely does one experience a truly brilliant and altruistic human being who changed history...Joseph Rotblat achieved this extraordinary feat...This is an imperative history for all to know and understand in this highly unstable political time on this nuclear laced planet."
Dr. Helen Caldicott
"This documentary is a worthy tribute to a heroic humanitarian and a powerful warning to us all to abolish nuclear weapons or face the ultimate global warming - nuclear holocaust."
Senator Roméo Dallaire
"Inspiring...The film can be used with mature students as a springboard for discussions about scientific ethics and the importance of multinational cooperation."
Ryan Henry, Daviess County Public Library, School Library Journal
"A fascinating and often terrifying look at the history
includes scene selection. For classroom use, choose Scene Selection at the Main Menu. Select Chapter 1. The film will play to the end of Chapter 11 and stop. To play the second half, start at Chapter 12.
The film's website
The film's trailer
Awards and Festivals
Best Writing in a Documentary, Gemini Awards (Canada)
Atlantic Film Festival
Canadian Lawyers Association for International Human Rights Film Festival
European Parliament Screening
United Nations Association Film Festival
Citizenship and Civics
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and horrors of nuclear weapons and the global movement against them...But more than that, The Strangest Dream is also a statement on the fundamental connection between ethics and science, and the important role that scientists and scholars have to play in society. By illustrating the influence that activist scientists have had on the world when they've had the courage to act--and political leaders have had the foresight to listen--the film is relevant not only to contemporary efforts to finally eliminate the scourge of nuclear weapons, but also in finding ways of addressing the myriad of other issues weighing heavily on our minds."