MICROWAVES, SCIENCE AND LIES
Revelations about the manipulation of science by mobile phone industry
THE STORY OF THIS MOVIE
The events that inspired this documentary film took place in Alsace, where a group of concerned citizens voiced their opposition to the installation of a mobile-telephony antenna tower near a residential area. One such citizen, Dr George, took action after reading scientific studies revealing that the electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile-telephony antenna towers are harmful to human health. Meanwhile, the mayor of the town believed that this technology was safe, based on the World Health Organization’s 2009 statement that the waves were harmless.
Documentary film director Jean Hêches was contacted by the members of the group, which sought his support. “I had never had any interest in this subject, but I recalled what I’d heard in the 1980s. The technician at the independent radio station I was associated with warned us about the radiation from our transmitter. I knew that mobile-telephony technology was similar. So an antenna located near people’s houses could in fact pose a health threat, especially to children”.
In 2009, when this film project got underway, there were numerous media reports of citizen groups that opposed the installation of antennas, citing scientific studies that called for caution. On the opposing side, national and international health authorities denied the impact of electromagnetic waves on health. However, conflicting scientific findings fuelled a major controversy that precluded anyone’s taking a definitive position.
“I felt the need to do a film on this issue of waves and health, but I wasn’t at all certain about how to approach the subject, especially because I was a participant in the group’s actions. The presence of the camera created tensions with the elected officials. The film project was stalled. It was a meeting with Janine Le Calvez, the president of PRIARTEM, that made it possible to withdraw from the local issues and start to understand the underlying elements of this controversy. In France, there were significant conflicts of interest among some of the experts who were consulted by the health authorities”.
After this meeting, filming began in earnest. Due to a lack of interest on the part of any TV channels, the project was self-financed through contributions from the members of the team, with logistical support from the Septième Factory independent production company.
“ Throughout the two-year production effort, Kerstin Stenberg from IEMFA, kept us informed of the major scientific meetings, where we were able to film a veritable turf war being waged by the industrial manufacturers over the safety of their technology. Kerstin was the first to mention the so-called ‘product defence strategy’ implemented worldwide by the mobile-telephony manufacturers in order to protect their business. Other people involved with the film – including a Member of the European Parliament, a scientist, and the Swedish journalist Mona Nilsson, who is an expert in this area – provided us with details of these practices”.
The “product defence strategy” operates primarily in the field of science. Accordingly, at this stage, it was necessary to gain an understanding of the scientific studies and expert reports, all of which were written in English. Producer Nancy Guion de Méritens, a former journalist, joined the project as coauthor and embarked on the task. “What motivated me was when I discovered that in certain schools located very near to relay antennas there was an abnormal concentration of children with various types of cancers, such as in Rexpoëde, in northern France, where we did our filming”.
Through a variety of sources the investigative work revealed that, like the companies in the tobacco industry, the mobile-telephony manufacturers had implemented a “product defence” strategy designed to raise, quite artificially, scientific doubt about the harmfulness of this technology, whose damaging effects had in fact been known to specialists since the 1970s. The scientific studies conducted during that era described the so-called “microwave syndrome” exhibited by radar operators at air bases. The symptoms reported by these studies were the same ones described by the so-called “electrohypersensitive” people who are suffering because of the waves today.
It was in Sweden that we tracked the story of Ulrika, an electrohypersensitive who, in the space of just two years, moved house twice in order to escape the increasingly invasive electrosmog. Her partner Tore, a former Motorola engineer, gave up his former life in order to support her in a Swedish society that, although it is hyper-modern, nevertheless abandons those individuals who, to their great distress, are handicapped by technology.
“The meeting with Mona Nilsson, the Swedish journalist, was a turning-point for the film. For 10 years she had been tracking the figures for the ‘product defence’ activity. She made it possible for us to gain access to documents that were highly incriminating of the industry, including a never-before-published piece of email that appears at the end of the film. She gave us the gift of a scoop!”
The sequence of events and meetings made it possible for this film – which, a priori, could not have been made without financial resources – to be born. When we needed illustrations for our discussions of places that we could not afford to visit and film in person, we appealed, through the Internet, to the generosity of amateur and professional contributors, who graciously made their images available for our film. It is in this same spirit that we are entrusting the successful completion of our project to the community of ULULE contributors, so that this documentary can now reach its intended audience.
About the project owner
The project is headed by director Jean Hêches and producer/author Nancy de Méritens.
After working as a film assistant and a television editor, Jean Hêches made his first documentary, Les Fous du cirque for the Carnets de l’aventure series on France 2. He continued with documentaries on subjects linked to his native Pyrenees region. His films then evolved toward social issues, including suburban life, with the award-winning short subject NOIR DESSIN ; biodynamic agriculture, with GUERIR LA TERRE “Healing the Earth”; and joint financing, with LA NOUVELLE ECONOMIE FRATERNELLE “The New Fraternal Economy” In 2009, in Alsace, where he now lives, he became involved in the struggle of a group that opposed the installation of a mobile-telephony antenna tower near a residential area. What began as ordinary activism turned into a complex investigative effort that has posed unexpected challenges going far beyond the local issues.
Nancy de Méritens has worked with Jean Hêches for many years, producing and co-writing several of his documentaries. She was previously a film journalist for the magazine Starfix, and worked in video distribution. For “Microwaves, Science, and Lies” she is reprising her role as a journalist in order to conduct the investigation.