TV: women speak out about the arms race

Sitting cross-legged on the couch in her skirt and blazer, Vivienne Verdon-Roe doesn't seem to be the type to make films about political power and the threat of nuclear war. But perhaps that's just the point.

Ms. Verdon-Roe, a former British schoolteacher, says she has spent the past four years seeking ``a fundamental shift in the way we project power in the world.''

In fact, her latest film, Women -- for America, for the World (Monday, 10:35 p.m. EDT, WTBS/cable), pushes the nuclear arms debate into a new arena. The 28-minute program features a string of prominent women -- from former Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm to actress Joanne Woodward -- voicing their concerns about the mental and material cost of the nuclear arms buildup.

This celebration of women -- and denigration of nuclear arms -- kicks off a new series of TV programs on arms control sponsored by the Better World Society.

The nonprofit Washington-based organization, which is dedicated to wiping out violence in the world, also uses television to explore other issues like overpopulation and the environment. The second and third parts of the arms control series, which will air June 2 and June 18, take up the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the first 50 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Steve Coleman, director of program development at the society, says Verdon-Roe's film sets the tone for the series: ``No program better reflects the spirit of hope, the clear sense of alternatives and possibilities, the sense of what an individual can do to make a difference.''

Indeed, Verdon-Roe feels that women, children, and ordinary citizens have the power -- and deserve the power -- to ``shape the definition of security in this country.'' For too long, she says, they have been excluded from discussions on war and peace.

Her first film -- ``In the Nuclear Shadow: What Can Children Tell Us?'' -- attempted to show that many American children have their own fears and ideas about nuclear war. The film was nominated for an Academy Award.

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