Uranium Drive-In

Half-life of the American Dream
Year Released
Film Length(s)
70 mins
Remote video URL

Featured review

Uranium Drive-In is one of the best teaching tools I've seen regarding energy development in the West. Our students benefitted tremendously from screening the film.
—David Meens
Professor, University of Colorado Boulder, Community Studies Program


Uranium Drive-In follows a proposed uranium mill in southwestern Colorado -- the first to be built in the U.S. in 30 years -- and the emotional debate pitting a population desperate for jobs and financial stability against an environmental group based in a nearby resort town. Without judgment, both sides of the issue are brought to life in heart-wrenching detail as the film follows conflicting visions for the future. The film offers no easy answers but aims instead to capture personal stories and paint a portrait of the lives behind this nuanced and complex issue.


The following educational and community engagement resources are also availible:

• Community Resources Tool Kit

• Screening Tool Kit

• Discussion Guide

• Pre-Calculus Tool Kit

*Scroll down to view/download resources


Uranium Drive-In gets beyond the familiar talking points and gets to know the people engaged--and often caught up--in the debate over how we should view and use our natural resources. In doing so, this film offers us an invitation to empathize and share in more honest and productive conversations about energy development.
—Jason Hanson
Research Faculty, Center of the American West
Uranium Drive-In offers a powerful look into the plight of a United States rural community fighting for revival and an environmental group that fears what this revival may cost. Uranium Drive-In beautifully portrays two sides of an American story, while never making it black and white. What has been accomplished here is a documentation of the human spirit, which may yet help realize the extent of our country's beautiful complexity.
—Jackson Gruver
Student, University of Colorado
Energy stories that once played out in Appalachia are now being re-told in the Rockies--and captured on film. Uranium Drive-In puts a human face on a recurring conflict in small-town, rural America, as hard-working families in need of jobs weigh the bitter choice between paychecks from the mining industry and serious health threats that can ruin lives and create modern ghost towns.
—Peter H. Wood
Professor of History, Duke University
Uranium Drive-In is one of those films that teaches itself. It poses big questions and prompts viewers to think deeply about long-held assumptions. Students emerge with a new appreciation of complexity and with a deep desire to cultivate creative solutions.
—Elizabeth Fenn
Professor of History, University of Colorado
A compassionate, unblinking look at the small town of Naturita, Colorado (pop. 519), as its citizens and neighbors struggle to do the right thing when faced with the promise, and the threat, of a new uranium mill.
—Sharon Anderson Morris
Brilliantly crafted, Uranium Drive-In is a documentary in the truest sense. Without taking sides this character-driven film delves deep into a complex issue and brings viewers on an intimate journey on what it means to have a controversial issue divide a community.
—Jennifer Brody
Director, Crested Butte Film Festival
A near perfect documentary, a must see! Uranium Drive In challenges you to imagine a new discourse, not only to save all the players in this tragedy, but to also save yourself.
—Chris Riley
Studio Riley
We were inspired by Uranium Drive-In, as it tells the story of a very political, environmental and culturally charged subject matter in a balanced and unbiased way. This film helped us all start a very important conversation about an issue happening in our own backyard.
—Antonio Nieto
High School student, Movies that Matter Program
The discussion we had following Uranium Drive-In was the most inspired, passionate and honest conversation of the Movies that Matter students' group all weekend. There was a consensus among the students that the film did a wonderful job telling a story about a very important subject matter in a fair and unbiased way…
—Luke Brown
Movies that Matter Program Leader
This is a very human story, a very simple story. I mean, it's complicated because it's about the mill and energy and economics, etc. It is about a community on the margins, one that's been abandoned by the old economy of things and passed over by the economy of ones and zeros.
—Reilly Caps
Writer, Riled Up Journal

Awards and Screenings

Best Feature Film, Arica Nativa Film Festival, Chile
Award for Documentary Excellence—Alliance of Women Film Journalists
Special Mention Documentary Excellence, St. Louis International Film Festival
Big Sky Award, Big Sky Film Festival
Jury Award, Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Jury Award, Durango Film Festival
STARZ Denver
United Nations Film Festival
Telluride Mountainfilm Festival
Newport Beach Film Festival
Arica Nativa Film Festival, Chile
Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Durango Film Festival
St. Louis International Film Festival
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Dominican Republic International Film Festival
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival
Yale Environmental Film Festival
Frozen River Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nations Capital
San Francisco Green Film Festival
Sun Valley Film Festival
Ashland Independent Film Festival
FilmAmbiente, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Director Commentary

I live in the resort town that is home to the environmental organization opposing the uranium mill in Uranium Drive-In. The resort town of Telluride is about sixty miles from the communities featured in the film. Early on in the process, I began to follow the issue of the proposed mill as meetings and debates began, outlining the pros and cons. I went into the project assuming that this mill was a bad idea—after all I consider myself an environmentalist and was concerned about the impacts of the new mill on our watershed. As well, I was wary of nuclear energy.

After spending two years in this community really getting to know people and why they so desperately wanted the mill, I grew to understand that the issue wasn’t nearly as black and white as I had originally assumed. Many factors need to be weighed when we, as a nation, decide on a sustainable energy future.

While I am still not a nuclear energy convert, especially in regards to the front end and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, I am aware that it may need to be part of our energy future if we expect to dramatically reduce our planet’s carbon emissions. Several world-renowned scientists, who were formerly anti-nuclear, have revealed to me that they see no way for our survival without nuclear energy; they were very clear in their stance that renewable energy can never fulfill all of our energy needs. That does give one pause.

Promotional Material

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