Venice FF

Steve James – A compassionate spy #Venezia79

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9 min. and 25 sec.

The hidden story of a scientists that leaked classified information about nuclear weapons to Russia after the Second World War.

Play Podcast
9 min. and 25 sec.

PODCAST | David Martos interviews Steve James, director of the film A compassionate spy.

To listen to the interview, click on the ► icon on the right, just above the picture

Steve James, director of the documentary A compassionate spy, out of competition in Venice Film Festival, talks to FRED about how he discovered the story of Ted Hall. He was a young scientist hired to work in the Manhattan Project that began to leak classified information about nuclear weapons to Russia. The film leans on the testimony of Ted Hall’s widow, Joan, and some TV material found by the production team

A compassionate spy: Recruited in 1944 as an 18-year-old Harvard undergraduate to be the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project, to create a bomb before the Germans did, Ted Hall didn’t share his colleagues’ elation after the successful detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb. Increasingly concerned during 1944—with Germany clearly losing the war—that a U.S. post-war monopoly on such a powerful weapon after the war could lead to nuclear catastrophe, he decided beginning that October to start passing key information about the bomb’s construction to the Soviet Union. After the war, at the University of Chicago, he met and married Joan, a fellow student with whom he shared a passion for classical music and socialist causes — and the explosive secret of his espionage. Living under a cloud of suspicion and years of FBI surveillance and intimidation, the pair raised a family while Ted refocused his scientific brilliance on groundbreaking bio-physics research. A Compassionate Spy reveals the twists and turns of this real-life spy story, and the couple’s remarkable love and life together during more than 50 years of marriage.

  • Reporter
    David Martos
  • Guest
    Steve James
  • Interviewee role
    Director
  • Film title
    A compassionate spy
  • Festival section
    Out of competition
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