“Heresay!”– a pun on both “hearsay” and “heresy”– is more a polemic than a documentary. Subject is nuclear power, and the pseudonymous “Willpower” (New Hampshire filmmaker Will Berliner) is very clearly against it. Prospects beyond fest circuit will be limited to benefit screenings and brief engagements at specialty houses that can draw activist audiences. Some public TV stations may pick it up, especially where nuclear power is a local issue, but obvious slant makes this a likely no-go for PBS.
There’s little pretense of balance, although spokespeople for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry do get their limited say. Emphasis is on the activists who opposed the Three Mile Island and Seabrook nuclear power plants, with a series of talking heads railing against incompetency, greed, danger, nuclear poisoning and two-headed calves.
Not much effort is made to back up the assertions. The two-headed calf is attributed to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, but all that’s shown is a photograph someone holds up.
Even viewers who agree with the film’s viewpoint are likely to weary of this non-stop lecture. Instead of attempting objectivity, or even quiet persuasion, film is more apt to preach to the choir.
After an hour of being harangued by various activists and hearing from scientists, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Ralph Nader and former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, it’s a relief when the film shifts gears. Final third focuses on the success stories of alternative energy sources utilizing sun and wind power, and the economic benefits of conservation. Segment on how Sacramento found solar power more cost-effective than nuclear power is most convincing point of the film, precisely because it doesn’t feel like a club beating the viewer over the head.