Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Silent Sentinels, Coward's War (1995)

Silent Sentinels, Coward's War, produced in 1995, is the fifth of half a dozen David A Feingold documentaries I've been sent by DER Films, to celebrate their release on dvd for the public market. Directed by Feingold and co-produced with Deborah La Gorce Kramer, this film looks at the threat of landmines to lives and livelihoods in Cambodia, long after the fighting has stopped. The film begins with images of a Bayon face and classical dance students before we see a unit of Khmer Rouge soldiers near the Thai-Cambodian border receiving instruction on mine-laying techniques. We delve deeper behind the problem facing Cambodia through interviews with mine victims and deminers such as Halo's Richard Boulter, Tim Porter and Robin Biddulph as well as MAG's Norman Stewart, Martyn Jordan and Chris Horwood. Both of these British demining organisations are at the forefront of the long and arduous job of making Cambodia safe again.

The film focuses on anti-personnel mines, specifically designed to maim and kill people, usually innocent civilians in the rural countryside, and various mines are highlighted, including the T72 Alpha, T72 Bravo and Pomz. The cost of a mine, $3 for a PMN2 mine, is far outweighed by the cost of locating and destroying it, which can be $500-plus. Already Cambodia has a ratio of 1:235 people who are amputees, the highest ratio in the world. The film visits the Vietnam Veterans Foundation, one of five organisations fitting prosthetic limbs to mine victims, and talks to Bobby Muller, as well as highlighting the work of CMAC in investigating and mapping Cambodia's landmine problem. It's a problem that will take many years to resolve, despite the peace that now envelopes the country. You can see a clip from the 55 minute dvd, and purchase it at the DER website here.

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