A Compassionate Spy

In 1943, 18-year-old Harvard senior Ted Hall was recruited as the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project in the US’s race against Germany to create the first atomic bomb. A mathematical and scientific prodigy, the teenager was quickly promoted as the director of a team working exclusively on the implosion bomb. As his colleagues celebrate the success of the first demonstration blast, Hall is filled with foreboding. After the US drops the bomb on Japan, Hall is terrified of the implications of the US having a monopoly on nuclear devastation. With the fate of humanity at stake, he leaks key information on its construction to the Soviet Union as a safeguard in order to even the playing field. After the war, Hall studies at the University of Chicago where he meets and falls in love with Joan, a fellow student with whom he shares a passion for progressive and socialist causes. Needing her to understand the stakes involved in the marriage, he shares his explosive secret. Directed by acclaimed Academy Award® nominated filmmaker, Steve James (Hoop Dreams), A Compassionate Spy skillfully weaves archival footage, reenactments and, most powerfully, testimony from Joan who brings her deep affection for and appreciation of her husband’s compassion for his fellow man to the forefront of this love story.

Steve James is best known as the Oscar-nominated director of “Hoop Dreams,” and has since become one of the most acclaimed documentary makers of his generation, with works including “Stevie,” “The New Americans,” “The War Tapes,” “At the Death House Door,” and “The Interrupters.” “Hoop Dreams” won every major critics award in 1994 as well as a Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1995. The film earned James the Directors Guild of America Award and the MTV Movie Award for "Best New Filmmaker." Recently, “Hoop Dreams” was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, signifying the film’s enduring importance to American film history, and was hailed by critic Roger Ebert as “the great American documentary.” His latest film, “Life Itself,” about the life of Roger Ebert, premiered at Sundance 2014. Steve is now at work on “Generation Food,” a collaboration with author Raj Patel about solutions to fixing the broken global food system.

Sponsored by Sheri Cohen and Charles Green