IN MEMORIAM (1919-2019)
Grassroots Activists Making A Difference
Nationally Broadcast on Free Speech TV and Link TV
Broadcast on Vermont PBS
Excerpts Broadcast Globally on DEMOCRACY NOW!
Produced in association with NHK-Japan
Broadcast Nationally in Japan on NHK
Directed by Robbie Leppzer
A Turning Tide Production
Original Music by John Sheldon
86 minutes and 52 minutes • 2019 • Closed Captions
Democracy prevails when a nuclear engineer turned whistle-blower, a 93-year-old grandmother, and a scrappy new governor join forces with a dedicated array of citizen activists to accomplish a rare grassroots environmental victory in closing an aging nuclear reactor in Vermont.
Filmed over five years, this feature-length documentary portrays the heated political battle to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, located on the banks of the Connecticut River in southern Vermont. POWER STRUGGLE follows the unfolding drama as citizen activists and elected state officials—alarmed at increasing safety violations—take on the federal government and one of the biggest power companies in the United States and eventually win.
The film captures perspectives on all sides of the controversy, including from local residents both for and against nuclear power, elected officials (including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin), nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, a Vermont Yankee spokesperson, federal nuclear regulators, and the legendary activist Frances Crowe.
A major part of the story is the federal case, Entergy v. Vermont, in which Entergy, the second largest nuclear power company in the U.S. and owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, sued the state of Vermont in an effort to overturn a state law that gave the Vermont Legislature a say in the future operation of Entergy’s nuclear power plant in Vermont.
POWER STRUGGLE is a timely, inspiring story of democracy in action; about whether citizens’ voices will be heard against big moneyed interests, and what people are doing right now to make a difference for a sustainable energy future.
POWER STRUGGLE puts nuclear power and the long-term hazards of radioactive waste on the radar screen for current debates about environmental protection and the ethical impact of technology on our society. It is one of the only films that links nuclear power and the climate justice movement.
“POWER STRUGGLE is the remarkable story about how people power overcame corporate power and government cover-ups to finally shut down an aging and dangerous nuclear plant. We see how small town citizens were transformed into tenacious environmental activists who triumphed against the odds. POWER STRUGGLE is a hopeful story that reminds us that citizen activism is not just possible, it is essential to saving our endangered planet.”
— David Goodman, best-selling author, journalist and radio host, THE VERMONT CONVERSATION
“POWER STRUGGLE is an effective classroom tool to catalyze discussions, inspire students to think critically about political and corporate power structures, and encourage people to become active change agents in the world. The film is also a compelling primer on persuasive communication by grassroots activists influencing elected officials and public opinion about one of the burning issues of our time.”
— Sut Jhally, Chair, Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Executive Director, Media Education Foundation
“Director Robbie Leppzer patiently follows the story over years, showing how activists worked both in elections and on the street to challenge the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. In telling the story, POWER STRUGGLE gives people on all sides a chance to speak.
What emerges is a story that is, sadly, too familiar. A corporation uses its resources to block a democratic process, and as a result human health and environmental protection are trumped by corporate profits. Leppzer celebrates how citizen engagement eventually prevailed, but wisely avoids imposing a happy ending, by reminding us about the long-term legacy of the nuclear waste that gets left behind. The film invites self- reflection, about our political and economic systems and what role each of us wants to play in these struggles.
These kinds of stories, so important to creating a more deeply democratic society, would often go untold without independent media. For more than four decades, Leppzer has been an exemplar of that independence, combining a mastery of the craft of storytelling through documentary films with an incisive analysis of how power operates. POWER STRUGGLE is journalism at its best.”
— Robert Jensen, Professor Emeritus of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin
“POWER STRUGGLE should ensure engaging conversations on a number of topics, including the role that citizens can play in a participatory democracy, the fight for a safe and sustainable energy future, and the long-term impact of nuclear technology on our society.”
— Kate Purdie Professor, Department of Visual & Performing Arts, Bennington College
“With his documentary film POWER STRUGGLE, Robbie Leppzer has created an important and detailed study of a social movement in a specific political and environmental campaign. This film can be used in university and high school classrooms to show what it means to organize around a social, political, or environmental issue. I hope this film will be widely used in a broad range of classes that are teaching strategies and methods for policy advocacy, political organizing, and social action.”
— Professor Dr. John Ungerleider, Former Chair of Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation M.A., School For International Training Graduate Institute; Adjunct Faculty at Brandeis College, Marlboro College, Community College of Vermont
“A genuine David vs. Goliath battle. A rich story of whether grassroots democracy, in the form of citizens and local government, can triumph over entrenched, powerful interests like the nuclear energy industry. Through a story with many twists and turns, Leppzer keeps the film’s focus on the individuals caught up in the drama.”
— Steve Pfarrer, DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE
RECOMMENDED SUBJECT AREAS
Political Science • Politics & Government • Sociology • Environmental Studies • Sustainability • Energy Policy • Climate Change • Renewable Energy • Law Studies • Contemporary Social Movements • Social Change • Philosophy of Nonviolence • Science and Technology • American Studies • Communication • Documentary Film Studies • Journalism • Media and Contemporary Culture
FILMMAKER AVAILABLE TO SPEAK
Filmmaker Robbie Leppzer is available to speak with POWER STRUGGLE on colleges campuses and at high schools to participate in a classroom or large forum Q & A with students — either in person or via an online video link such as Zoom or Skype. In addition, he can present a retrospective of his documentary films chronicling 40 years of grassroots social change activism.