RICHLAND: Belief and Secrecy in a Nuclear Company Town

Irene Lusztig
Film & Digital Media
UC Santa Cruz


What does it mean to love and feel nostalgia for the atomic bomb? RICHLAND is a feature length nonfiction film exploring the deeply ingrained systems of belief, feeling, patriotism, dread, and denial that are shaped by everyday life in a nuclear company town. Established in 1943 in Eastern Washington, Hanford was the Manhattan Project manufacturing site responsible for the plutonium used in the atomic bomb detonated over Nagasaki in 1945. The government-planned city of Richland was built in the early ‘40s as a boomtown “Atomic Frontier” bedroom community for Hanford workers and their families. Today, 32 years after the last Hanford reactor was decommissioned, Richland’s primary economy is the federally-funded nuclear clean-up industry, worth billions of dollars; the contamination on the Hanford site will almost certainly outlast the lifespan of the United States and, possibly, of humanity itself. Atomic-themed businesses, mushroom clouds, and other reminders of Richland’s atomic heritage are ubiquitous; and Richland’s town slogan is “proud of the cloud.” Filmed during the year of the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, RICHLAND will be a timely examination of American patriotic imagination in the post-Trump era and the habits of thought that normalize and valorize the violent past.