After coming home from the Vietnam War, Craig Williams was looking forward to some normalcy. But in 1984, he discovered that the Department of Defense was tasked with getting rid of over 500 tons of toxic nerve gas and other chemical weapons that were stockpiled in his small Kentucky hometown.
That’s when, filmmaker Ben Evans says, Williams and other concerned citizens began the fight of their lives, which ultimately sparked the formation of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.
“It really started as a small group of Kentuckians in Berea who were trying to figure out how to stop this plan to incinerate a bunch of chemical weapons that are stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot out in Richmond,” Evans says. “Right there next to Berea.”
Now, nearly three decades later, Evans’ latest documentary “NERVE: How a Small Kentucky Town Led the Fight to Safely Dismantle the World’s Chemical Weapons” chronicles the process.
It’s a project that has been nearly that long in the making, as much of the archived footage used by Evans was captured by documentary filmmaker Joe Gray, who in the 90s, wanted to produce a film that examined the question of how to dispose of deteriorating chemical weapons.
Although Gray followed the hearings and shot raw footage of interviews, he never received the funding he needed to edit and produce a documentary on the subject.
That’s where Evans has picked up — presenting the archived footage alongside new interviews with key players from that time, like Williams.
“What’s inspiring about the film is that they went from ‘Not in my backyard’ to ‘Not on this planet’ — to kind of borrow a line from the film,” Evans says. “They realized this would end up somewhere and someone else would suffer the consequences and the same situation was happening at these other sites.”
“NERVE,” which is the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Environmental Film Festival at Yale, has its Louisville premiere Wednesday at 7 p.m. It will be shown at Bellarmine University’s Cralle Theater and is free and open to the public. More information is available here.