Depot Docs: Indian Point

Cold Spring filmmaker examines controversial nuclear plant

By James O’Barr

Indian Point, the title of Ivy Meeropol’s new film, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and is set for a sold-out Depot Docs screening on Friday, Jan. 29, at the Philipstown Depot Theatre, was once simply the name of a geographical protrusion of the Westchester County village of Buchanan into the east side of the Hudson River, 35 miles north of Times Square.

That innocent (one might say pre-historic) era came to an end in 1954, when energy giant Con Edison bought 250 acres of Indian Point with the intention of building “a commercial-sized atomic power plant.” Since then, to all and sundry, Indian Point has meant neither more nor less than nuclear energy. To friends, it’s energy “too cheap to meter.” To foes, it’s energy “too costly and dangerous to matter.”

To Meeropol, the mother of young children, citizen activist, and, as a resident of Cold Spring, the potential victim of disaster if something goes terribly wrong at Indian Point, her sympathies might easily be expected to be at home with the foes of nuclear power and Entergy, the corporate owner of Indian Point. But to Meeropol the filmmaker, the story is not in the choice of a side, as in the frankly pro-nuclear power documentary Pandora’s Promise, shown last year during Depot Docs.

Indian Point (photo provided)

Indian Point (photo provided)

Rather, according to Meeropol, it’s the complex, multi-dimensional story “about one aging and controversial nuclear power plant in the age of Fukushima … told from both inside and outside the plant, through characters who care deeply about its future.” The reference to Fukushima is, of course, to the earthquake/tsunami-generated destruction of Japanese nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiitchi, and the radioactive contamination of communities surrounding the plant.

Meeropol, who grew up surrounded by the intense for-and-against controversies surrounding the lives and deaths of her grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, explored those controversies in her first film, Heir to an Execution. With Indian Point, she shows once again that she is at home with the politics of intense polarization, and that her own passion is to better understand things that matter. She clearly convinced Entergy corporate and the workers at the plant of her honest intensions, because they allowed her unprecedented access.

A scene from "Indian Point"

A scene from ”Indian Point”

One of the film’s featured participants is Brian Vangor, senior control room operator with over 35 years at Indian Point. Among those outside the plant “who care deeply about its future,” are Marilyn Elie, long-time Indian Point activist, Roger Witherspoon, environmental journalist, Phillip Musegaas of Riverkeeper, and Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In one of the film’s most powerful sequences, Meeropol accompanies Jaczko to Japan when he visits Fukushima.

Of course, even as producer, director, and progenitor-in-chief of Indian Point, Meeropol did not work alone. In fact, a great many of the production team are Hudson Valley locals, including cinematographers Rob Featherstone, Dan Gold, and Rudolf Van Dommele; editor Stephen Heffner; supervising editor Toby Shimin; archival researcher Jennifer Stamps; sound recordist Nick Poholchuk, and production assistants Terry Nelson and Deana Morenoff.

While the show is sold-out, there are occasionally no-shows. To place your name on a waiting list for cancellations, call 845-424-3900.

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