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Dark Circle collection

Identifier: COU:5028

Scope and Contents

The Dark Circle contains collection original production material from the 1982 documentary film, particularly material related to the Rocky Flats nuclear facility in Jefferson County, Colorado. The collection includes original 16mm camera-negative moving image film and 1/4" open-reel sound recordings, as well as 16mm positive workprints and other elements from the film's production. In addition to original interviews and documentary footage featuring nuclear facility workers and anti-nuclear activists, the collection includes historic, archival, and stock sound and moving images regarding the history of nuclear weapons and nuclear production, gathered by the filmmakers for use in the film. Paper documentation in the collection includes research material, production documents, camera and sound logs, and interview transcripts, especially related to Colorado’s Rocky Flats nuclear facility, as well as correspondence related to the PBS controversy in the late 1980s.

See the scope/content note of each series for more information.


  • 1940s-1990s

Conditions Governing Access

Research access to original moving image films in this collection is restricted, due to preservation concerns. Contact with a list of desired items and a statement of intended use, which will be evaluated by the Moving Image Archivist based on preservation condition of the desired items and staff availability; please note that access may not be guaranteed for all items.

All analog sound recordings, video formats, and badly deteriorated film held by the Archives must be digitized for research access, due to preservation concerns. If these materials have not previously been digitized, the researcher is responsible for the cost of digitization. Researchers may request access to previously-digitized audiovisual materials that are not online on the CU Digital Library by contacting

Copyright Statement

All original materials created by Judy Irving and Christopher Beaver within this collection are available for reproduction and use, including the cinematic release of the “Dark Circle” film. The University Libraries may not own copyright to other footage or materials within this collection that were produced by other creators. Researchers are responsible for contacting the copyright holder(s) for this material and obtaining permission to publish or broadcast. The University Libraries will not grant permission to publish or broadcast this material and are not responsible for copyright violations resulting from such use.

Biographical / Historical

Dark Circle was directed and produced by Judy Irving, Christopher Beaver, and Ruth Landy from 1978 to 1982, to investigate the creation and use of nuclear weapons and their impact on communities. Specifically, they strove to connect the personal stories of victims of plutonium poisoning around the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons facility in Colorado and the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The film went on to win the Grand Prize for documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in News and Documentary.

Though the film was approved for broadcast on PBS in 1985, it was later ruled too one-sided to be considered educational or journalistic, leading to accusations of censorship by the filmmakers. After many years of deliberation, the film was broadcast on PBS in 1989 as part of the documentary series POV.


30 linear feet (3 records boxes, 11 other boxes, 429 reels)

Language of Materials



"Dark Circle" was a documentary film directed and produced by Judy Irving, Christopher Beaver, and Ruth Landy, focusing on nuclear production in Jefferson County, Colorado, and the on-going environmental and health risks involved with nuclear power and production. This collection contains original moving image film and sound recordings created by the filmmakers between 1978 and 1982, featuring current and former Rocky Flats workers and members of anti-nuclear advocacy groups. It also includes historical, archival, and stock sound recordings and moving images gathered for use in the production.


This collection is arranged in the following series: Series 1) Production records, Series 2) Sound recordings, Series 3) Video recordings, Series 4) Moving image film

Jamie Marie Wagner
January 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States