Artists' Television Access

Interview with Kevin Kunze, director of “Reconnect”

We connected with Kevin Kunze, director of the documentary film, “Reconnect”.  The film is about cell phone radiation, a major public health threat.

At ATA on July 28. The director will be available for Q&A after the screening.

What motivated you to make this film?

I became motivated to make this film when I started to hear from brain tumor patients about their experiences and how many of them and their family strongly believe their cancer was caused from long-term cell phone use.

What was the biggest challenge during production?

The lack of funds and realizing the pervasiveness of cell phones within our media — both newspapers and major film studios. In fact, we are still trying to fundraise in order to complete the film and create an interactive website.

What did you learn making the film?

Well I learned there’s enough cause to pause. Whenever I make a film I’m trying to answer a question for myself and the filmmaking is a way of understanding more. After interviewing over 50 experts, I’m convinced that cell phone radiation has long-term health effects on the body such as an increased risk for brain cancer and sperm reduction and damage.

I’ve also learned to always follow my instinct and that sometimes it’s an advantage to have only one person behind the camera instead of an entire crew. For instance, when interviewing Steve Wozniak, I don’t think he would have been so candid with his answers if I had a ton of people and equipment.

You interviewed politicians such as Gavin Newsom, Mark Leno, Leland Yee and Dennis Kucinich. What are they doing to protect our health? Is anything holding back their efforts?

They are doing the best they can to protect our health by trying to pass bills on multiple levels: national, state, and city. Unfortunately there are several speed bumps along the way. For instance, one of the major ones has been lobbying. Using multiple websites such as MapLight, we’ve been able to see that telecommunications industries have given Senators in California substantial amounts of contributions to vote no on certain safety bills. In fact, recently the LA Times ran an article showing AT&T has been the biggest lobbyist in California for the past 7 years.

So let’s say a bill does pass, like two years ago when Gavin Newsom and the SF Board of Supervisors passed a Right to Know bill, which would use exact information found in fine print in cell phone manuals and make it more apparent by putting it on the box. The cell phone industries sued the city for going against their freedom of speech or First Amendment rights as corporations. This bill and the lawsuit are still unresolved but it certainly has delayed awareness.

You interviewed John Walls from CTIA, the telecommunication lobbying organization that filed a lawsuit against San Francisco for passing a cell phone safety bill. What was it like to meet him?

It was frightening. The only reason he did the interview in the first place is because I went around the entire CTIA event trying to get different spokesmen from companies to address the fine print information in the manuals and to speak about the San Francisco lawsuit. And this building is actually the same one they hold Comic Con, in San Diego, so it was huge. Finally we were asked to stop filming and direct our questions to the CTIA’s spokesperson, who actually used to be Fox Sports news anchor.

He was basically lying directly to my face about what health organizations are saying about the health effects from cell phones. Nearly every group he mentions actually says the opposite and suggests precaution and safety over leaving the public uninformed. The agencies that’ve spoken up about this issue include doctors from the National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, and California’s Environmental Protection Agency. So it was like being lied to by a spokesperson from a very large and powerful industry. He actually hit my mic at one point because he was using his hands so much during the interview.

Do you hope your film encourages people to take action? If so, what?

I hope so. There’s so much people could do to encourage others. And once the public is informed, industry will have to become more accountable by hopefully making safer phones with built-in headphones and better speakerphone capabilities, which if you notice Apple has already started to introduce with Siri.

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