Bound by Ice

Bound by Ice is a romantic drama/thriller set during the Cold War, pitting Lucy Bledsoe, a plucky lesbian scientist, against McCarthy-era government agents hounding LGBTQ employees out of federal employment. She is forced to choose between her job, her lover, and her work when she discovers a dubious military plan that could lead to dire environmental consequences.

  • Nancy Kates
    Regarding Susan Sontag, Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin
  • Lucy Jane Bledsoe
  • Nancy Kates
    Regarding Susan Sontag, Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin
  • Deepa Donde
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    United States
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Writer Biography - Nancy Kates, Lucy Jane Bledsoe

Nancy Kates produced and directed the feature-length HBO documentary Regarding Susan Sontag, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, where it received a Special Jury Mention. It has since screened at over 130 film festivals in 35 countries, and received several honors, including a FOCAL International Award. Regarding Susan Sontag received major funding from the NEA, the NEH, Chicken & Egg Pictures, and Sundance. Ms. Magazine named the film one of 2014’s top ten feminist films, while critics called it “compelling” and “perceptive” (NY Times); “a stunning portrait” (Ally Derks, IDFA); and “mesmerizing, thoughtful, provocative” (Times Herald Record), praising its “boldly evocative impressionist strokes” (SF Chronicle). Kates also produced and directed Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin, with Bennett Singer. The film premiered in competition at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and on the PBS series “POV," winning more than 25 awards worldwide. Critics described it as “a potent piece of historical rediscovery” (LA Times); “beautifully crafted” (Boston Globe); “powerful and startling” (The Advocate); and “poignant” (TIME). Kates studied documentary at Stanford; her master’s thesis, Their Own Vietnam, received the 1995 Student Academy Award in documentary. Based in Berkeley, California, Kates also works as a speaker and writer. She has studied screenwriting through the Sundance Collab program, the Cine Qua Non Lab, the Stowe Story Labs, the Athena Film Festival Writer’s Lab and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and has several narrative projects in the works. In 2014, she was included in the OUT 100, the magazine’s list of intriguing LGBTQ Americans.

Lucy Jane Bledsoe's 2022 young adult novel, No Stopping Us Now, is based on her own true story of love, sisterhood, and activism in 1974-5.Her Lava Falls, a novella and collection of stories, won the 2019 Devil's Kitchen Fiction Award. Her 2018 novel, The Evolution of Love, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction and the Lambda Literary Award. Her five other novels include A Thin Bright Line and The Big Bang Symphony.

Bledsoe’s writing has won the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Award, an Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award, two Pushcart Prize nominations, and an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award, and has received numerous fellowships.
Bledsoe has traveled to Antarctica three times—twice as the recipient of National Science Foundation fellowships, visiting field camps where scientists study penguins, climate change, and the Big Bang. As a social justice activist, she is currently working on voting rights.

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Writer Statement

Why Bound by Ice? The current undermining of American democracy by an out- of-control demagogue strongly echoes the era of Senator Joe McCarthy and his accusations against suspected Communists, homosexuals, and other “subversives.” Those who did not fit into American society were under great threat then, in the 1950s, and, to some degree, again today, though now the targets are poor people, people of color, and immigrants, rather than LGBTQ Americans.
Lucy, our protagonist, is a queer government employee who risks losing her job and undergoing public humiliation if she is discovered. My films are about telling untold LGBT stories, exploring what has been left out of mainstream historical narratives, and the contrasts between private struggles and public lives. They also raise issues of war and peace, asking what responsibility individuals have to bear witness to war.
When I first read A Thin Bright Line (the underlying material for Bound by Ice), I was drawn to the detailed descriptions of McCarthy-era witch-hunts of lesbians, gay men, and other “subversives.” Having spent years thinking about the lives of figures like Bayard Rustin and Susan Sontag for my documentaries, I resonated with the quest to find love as a queer person in 1950s America.

This story appeals to me for very personal reasons, due to the homophobia I have experienced throughout my life, even, at times, here in the Bay Area. Things have radically changed in the last decade or so, but walking down many streets in America as a visibly queer person is still not always safe or advisable. The threats Lucy faces in her world are also historical realities of the era: both Bayard Rustin and Susan Sontag had FBI files, for example. Rustin’s is hundreds of pages long, and has been extremely helpful to historians and filmmakers documenting his life.

With Bound by Ice, I am also compelled by the scientific content: SIPRE scientists performed some of the earliest studies of climate variation using ice cores. Camp Century, where the cores were extracted in Greenland, is likely to become a major environmental disaster site within 50 years, when nuclear and toxic wastes left under the ice will be exposed. Tragically, global warming is causing the Ice Sheet to melt at ever-increasing speeds.

The core questions raised by my films are fairly consistent: how to live an authentic LGBTQ life in a homophobic society, how to find a public voice of opposition, and how to work toward social change and transformation. My films are also about longing and desire: for love, but also success, connection, and community.
Our challenge is to make Lucy’s conflicts universal: does she forgo the pursuit of love in order to safeguard her career? Will government surveillance doom her romance with Charlie, and her job at SIPRE? Can she expose the ill-conceived military plan to put nuclear warheads under the Greenland ice without jeopardizing Army funding of the ice core research, as well as risking arrest? We hope audience members will relate to the difficulties of making painful choices while under threat.