Atomic City (USA, 27 minutes)

Directed by: David McMurry

Written by: David McMurry

Atomic City is a meditation on the town of Arco, Idaho. A place that could otherwise be considered pedestrian among the gritty settlements and sagebrush plains of the West, Arco lays claim to the fact it was the first city in the world lit with atomic power.

On July 17, 1955 an experimental reactor lit the town’s lights for just over an hour in the middle of the night. This moment in time is marked each year through the town’s biggest celebration which includes a ping pong ball drop, parade down main street, and an all-class reunion.

At one time Arco seemed to be on the glowing edge of a future filled with clean energy, jobs and unlimited growth. This version of the future never panned out. Arco’s nuclear heritage has been overshadowed with the collective impressions generated by the perils of Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Nearly 60 years later, Arco remains a town of just under 1000 residents, struggling to establish it’s identity and resist fading into the backdrop of the American West. Atomic City weaves together ethereal portraits with astrological and classical archetypes to create a melancholy collage of a forgotton town on the edge of the atomic frontier


Atomic City

By Alexia Amoriello.

Atomic City is a peculiar yet beautiful documentary that explores the town of Arco, Idaho. On July 17, 1955, Arco became the first town in the world to be lit up electrically by atomic power. Arco is a forgotten town that is home to less than 1,000 people and that was once considered to be on the edge of the nuclear frontier.
David McMurry’s documentary is oddly poetic and features gorgeous cinematography. Each shot is carefully and expertly composed; it is as though every frame of the film contains its own distinct story.
However, what really makes Atomic City stand out is the fact that the film makes use of two narrators who seem to be complete polar opposites. At times a loud older woman serves as the narrator of the film, and her narration is surprisingly amusing. The other narrator in the film is a young girl who provides an ominous yet thought-provoking voice-over. The young girl’s narration delves into astrology, which adds another complex dimension to the film’s poetic nature. The girl’s haunting narration in combination with the film’s visual imagery makes Atomic City a truly mesmerizing cinematic experience.
Atomic City thoroughly captures life in a small town where it feels as though the town has its own individual identity. In addition, McMurry’s film is interspersed with portraits of the unique people that populate this intriguing town. Yet the film feels as though it is about so much more than a forgotten little town. Atomic City’s visual style, perplexing images, multiple narrations, and engaging use of music all work together to create an eccentric experience that makes it seems as though there is something lurking beneath the film’s surface.
McMurry demonstrates that he is clearly not afraid to take risks with his filmmaking endeavors, as Atomic City is wonderfully experimental and an adventurous feat in documentary filmmaking. This is the type of film that will leave viewers pondering long after the film is over. Atomic City is a fascinating and unparalleled achievement in film that will certainly leave viewers in awe.
Atomic City is an official selection of the New York City Independent Film Festival and will be screened during the festival’s run from October 12-18, 2015.