Jack Niedenthal’s first six years in the Marshall Islands were all spent in the isolated jungles of the outer islands. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer on Namu Atoll from 1981 to 1984. He then contracted to work with the Bikini Council on Kili Island from 1984 through late 1986 teaching English to the adults, teaching in the elementary school and working with the Kili/Bikini/Ejit Local Government Council.
In 1987 he assumed the duties of the Trust Liaison for the People of Bikini, which includes the management and coordination of the funds allocated by the United States government to compensate the Bikinians for their suffering and to facilitate the radiological cleanup of Bikini Atoll. He acts as a liaison for the Council to the media, the U.S. government and its various agencies, the scientists who work on Bikini, the Bikini Council’s attorney, trustees, money managers, construction companies, engineers, project managers, auditors and business associates. The Trust Liaison also coordinates travel schedules, is used as an advisor and translator, manages the Bikinians’ scholarship program, and is responsible for the Bikini Council’s accounting.
The government of the Marshall Islands awarded him an honorary “Public Benefit” Marshallese citizenship in December of 2000.
Along with his book about the people of Bikini, For the Good of Mankind (2001), he has published a number of articles, academic papers and photos about the Bikinians in The Guardian (United Kingdom), World View, The Health Physics Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle and others. He also published a chapter about Bikini Atoll in the book, Everything You Know is Wrong, compiled by Russ Kick.
In 2008, while with his 10 year old son, Max, in a local video store surrounded by the typical Hollywood-based fare, his son asked, “Why are there no movies in Marshallese?” Realizing what a tragedy it was for the children of the Marshall Islands to grow up without seeing a film in their own language, set in their own country and dealing with issues unique to their own culture, Jack decided to venture into filmmaking. At the age of 50 with no filmmaking experience whatsoever, he founded Microwave Films of the Marshall Islands, bought some filmmaking equipment and, along with co-director and co-producer Suzanne Chutaro (the daughter of a former RMI Peace Corps Volunteer Joe Murphy), made a Marshallese
children’s movie, a fairy tale about a mythical Marshallese sprite, entitled Ña Noniep (I am the Good Fairy, 2009). This film was followed by 3 more feature length films in the Marshallese language, Yokwe Bartowe (Poor Bartowe, 2010), Lañinbwil’s Gift (2011, a film that won numerous awards including “Best of Festival” at the Guam International Film Fest and “Best Foreign Film” at the Hawaii Ocean Film Festival), and now, Ainikien Jidjid ilo Boñ (The Sound of Crickets at Night), a narrative feature film about the people of Bikini Atoll that has already won the Atlantis Award for Foreign Feature Films at the 2012 New York based Moondance International Film Festival, the 2012 Grand Jury Award for Achievement in Acting at the Guam International Film Festival, was an Official Selection at the prestigious 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival, and now will be showing at the 29th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in May of 2013 and the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii on May 26th.
The members of Microwave Films are currently at work on their 5th feature film, entitled JILEL (The Shell).
Jack’s wife of 25 years, Regina, is a Bikini islander. They have five children, two of them by adoption, and one grandson.
For those in LA, here is ticket information for the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival for Jack Niedenthal Marshallese feature film, The Sound of Crickets at Night. On this same ticket ordering page is a nice review of the film by Martin Wong, co-founder of Giant Robot.
Niedenthal filming Alson Kelning AT 7 PM ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 8th, 2013 AT THE CVG THEATERS
621 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Website for the film:
Another review of the film by Phil Hall: