Help The Atomic Cafe Get Into the National Film Registry

Back in 2005 CONELRAD attempted a campaign to get one of our primary influences - THE ATOMIC CAFE - into the prestigious National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. At the end of each year, the NFR announces its 25 inductees for preservation. We failed miserably in '05.

Today CONELRAD re-submitted its nomination citing the reasons listed below why THE ATOMIC CAFE deserves to make the 2009 cut. You can help support this nomination by submitting your own via their nomination page. Feel free to borrow liberally (or conservatively) from the "talking points" below. If anyone writes you back and informs you that nominating is closed for the year, ask them why their page has NO DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS!

See you in December and keep your fingers crossed!

May 27, 2009

National Film Registry
Library of Congress
Attn. Mr. Steve Leggett
Washington, DC 20540

RE: Nomination for “The Atomic Café" for Inclusion in the 2009 National Film Registry

If no one has previously done so, I would like to provide the official nomination for the 1982 feature documentary “The Atomic Café” to be considered for inclusion in the 2009 National Film Registry.

“The Atomic Café” is an 88-minute history of the early Cold War that blends government civil defense films, newsreel footage, television footage and a soundtrack of bizarre music of various genres by artists reacting, contemporaneously, to the atomic age. The film’s remarkable editing uses all of these “found objects”—with NO modern film or soundtrack material added—to provide a compelling narrative of the insanity and naiveté of this critical era in world history.

The reasons that this satirical Cold War film deserves your serious consideration are many. It is hoped that by enumerating a few of these reasons below, it may make preparations for your discussion of the film a little easier. Preceding this list is the production information for the film:

Released: 1982
Running Time: 88 minutes
Produced and Directed by Jayne Loader, Pierce Rafferty, Kevin Rafferty
Edited by Jayne Loader and Kevin Rafferty
Music Coordinator: Rick Eaker
Sound Editor: Margie Crimmins
Archival Research: Pierce Rafferty
Music Consultants: Richard Bass, David Dunaway, Dr. Charles Wolfe
Production Consultants: Obie Benz, Susan Kellam, George Pillsbury
Theatrical release through Libra Films (Now Circle Releasing)
DVD release through Docurama

1. “The Atomic Café” is one of the first, if not the first American feature documentaries that utilized a daring editing style innovated by the Soviet film editor Esther Shub. This “collage” style relies solely on existing or “found” footage and soundtrack with no narration. The narrative is structured by the editing of the found footage.

2. “The Atomic Café” excavated images and sound from America’s recent past and demonstrated to the culture how very naïve the government and the populace was with regard to atomic energy. In so doing, the film sparked valuable commentary on the Reagan arms build-up that was occurring at the time of the film’s theatrical release in 1982.

3. Because the film was conceived and produced in an era before the mass availability of such media (via home video and the Internet), the team that made “The Atomic Café” contributed a great service to history by painstakingly combing through the holdings of numerous archives for their footage. The film took five years to produce and much of this time was spent tracking down usable footage.

4. “The Atomic Café” was responsible in large measure for re-introducing to the culture to the so-called “mental hygiene” / instructional film as a field of serious study, appreciation and, let’s be honest, ridicule. In other words, the popularity of “The Atomic Café” reminded everyone that there existed a parallel celluloid universe that served as a kind of idealized, alternate history of the United States in the post-War period.

5. “The Atomic Café” broke new ground as a documentary that was entertaining, artistic, satiric and historically significant. In many ways, “The Atomic Café” is the forerunner to the current generation of documentaries that do not conform to the popular notion of how an “important” documentary should be made and what tone an “important” documentary should take.

6. For more information on “The Atomic Café” please see the following links: and

Thank you for your consideration. If possible, acknowledgement of this nomination would be appreciated.


Bill Geerhart, editor and co-founder

[ Wednesday | 27 May 2009 ]

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