OJPCR: The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution

Issue 3.1 | March 2000

ISSN 1522-211X


Video Reviews

By Derek Sweemtan, Editor-In-Chief, OJPCR

From Chechnya to Chernobyl

The most surprising video screened for this issue was From Chechnya to Chernobyl, which chronicles the lives of refugees who fled the Chechen war to live in the condemned areas around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The filmmakers traveled to the village of Raduga, where they stayed with a family from Grozny. Universally, the people profiled in the film answer the most obvious question by saying living with the radiation is better than living in a war zone.

The families in the film work and live in an area clearly intended to be uninhabited. Children laugh about swimming next to a sign warning of the radiation danger and a lively dairy employs some of the villagers. The filmmakers do not pass judgement on the decisions made by those in Raduga, but do strive to show the complexities of their lives. Information from home is scarce and occasionally the government comes by to do medical tests. The residents of Raduga include not only Chechens, but also former residents of Tajikistan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

From Chechnya to Chernobyl is an unsettling film because it makes no attempt to show the situation the residents of Raduga have fled from. We hear their descriptions and their reasons, and are left to interpret the rationality of their actions ourselves. This film provides a unique perspective on both the post-Soviet conflicts and the problems of refugees.

From Chechnya to Chernobyl, directed by Slawomir Grünberg, produced by Log In Productions. 45 minutes. Available from Bullfrog Films at www.bullfrogfilms.com.

On Tour with the Blue Berets

On Tour with the Blue Berets is a documentary video made by Stephen Maly and Terry Moyemont (the Light Brigade). Maly and Moyemont traveled to Macedonia in 1998 to see UNPREDEP peacekeepers firsthand. The video examines American and Finnish peacekeepers as well as the citizens of Macedonia in the patrolled areas.

By interviewing American peacekeepers on the ground in Macedonia, Maly and Moyemont are able to show the different responses they had to their mission. Some were wholeheartedly behind the idea of keeping the Bosnian conflict from spreading, while others were critical of the policy. Additionally, Maly and Moyemont speak with Finnish peacekeepers, who bring other viewpoints.

While the study of peacekeeping policy has grown, little information is being distributed about the experiences of individual peacekeepers. On Tour with the Blue Berets serves to begin to fill that gap. Additionally, since UNPREDEP is one of the UN’s clearest peacekeeping successes, there is much to be learned from its study. This is an important contribution, suitable for teaching students of different ages. There is also a 12-page study guide available to help teachers in the classroom.

On Tour with the Blue Berets is a presentation of the Light Brigade and the Helena Television Coalition, produced with a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. For information about purchasing a copy of On Tour with the Blue Berets, go to http://lehnherr.com/lightbrigade/ or email tmoyemon@krl.org.

Triumph over Terror

Triumph over Terror is a six-part video series commissioned by the Television Trust for the Environment in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The films were produced in Bangladesh, Nepal, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, and Thailand and focus on various aspects of the struggle for human rights.

Perhaps the most interesting to our readers will be Where Truth Lies, a 30-minute film about one specific case that went before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Gideon Nieuwoundt was a colonel with the Security Police who was involved in the killing of Siphiwo Mtimkulu and Topsy Madaka, along with many other instances of torture and murder. Just before the amnesty expired, Nieuwoundt and the other officers involved filed with the Commission.

The film incorporates footage of the testimony before the commission along with interviews with Nieuwoundt and Mtimkulu’s family to try to show a variety of perspectives on the amnesty process and aparthied. The film also follows Nieuwoundt as he recreates the circumstances of Mtimkulu and Madaka’s arrest, torture, and murder.

At the end of the film, Nieuwoundt meets with Mtimkulu’s mother and father to ask their forgiveness. Mtimkulu’s son, who he never met, was also present. This meeting is charged with a drama, not usually seen in documentary filmmaking. Everyone is seen in all their complexity and the filmmaker is careful to present a fair and accurate portrayal of all the players. The viewer not only sees Nieuwoundt as the torturer and murderer he clearly was, but also his attempts to reconcile his actions with his current beliefs and try to live a normal life. Mtimkulu’s mother, father, and son all have different reactions to the Commission, Nieuwoundt, and their memories of Mtimkulu. The fact that the peaceful attempt at reconciliation turns violent illustrates the difficulties in creating any serious reconciliation in societies divided by conflict. This video would be of great use in stimulating a discussion about the difficulties being faced in South Africa. It accurately documents the horrors of the past and provides a path for the future.

Going Home should also be of interest. It is an examination of the lives of refugees from the war in Sierra Leone now living in Guinea. It also looks at the success of the UN High Commission for Refugees and the Guinean government at providing the necessary support for the refugees.

The film stresses the difficulties of reincorporating those involved in the war into the social fabric. Interviews with a 10-year old boy who served in the army, girls who were conscripted to be slaves, and people maimed during the fighting provide insight into the plight of refugees across Africa.

Smiles: The Hypocrisy of Thai Politics provides a good overview of 20th century Thai politics and Thai attempts to create and improve democracy. This film is good, but uses a voice-over technique wherein a female voice apparently is intended to represent the propaganda of the government. This is not made clear, however, and the viewer may be confused over who is to be believed.

Discipline with Dignity studies the attempts to remove corporal punishment from Nepalese schools. Till Death do Us Part looks at the punishment widows in Nigeria suffer after their husband’s deaths. In the Name of Safety illustrates the Bangladeshi policy of incarcerating innocent people, including those who married against their parent’s wishes, for their own protection.

All of the films in the Triumph over Terror series serve to show us that, although progress has been made in the last 50 years, there is still much more to be done. The stories are informative and moving, and the reliance on interviews with those actually affected by the policies described adds a human dimension sometimes lacking in studies of human rights.

Where Truth Lies, directed by Mark J. Kaplan, produced by New Vision Production and Ubuntu Film & TV Productions with TVE. Produced in association with the Commission of the European Communities and WITNESS. Winner, Best International Documentary, One World Broadcasting Trust Awards. 30 minutes.

Going Home, directed by Emily Marlow, produced by Jenny Richards, Television Trust for Environment. Produced in association with the Commission of the European Communities and WITNESS. Second Place, One World Broadcasting Trust Awards. 31 minutes.

Smiles: The Hypocrisy of Thai Politics, directed by Kamron Gunatilaka, produced by Sam Kalayanee & Lyndal Barry, Images Asia with TVE. Produced in association with the Commission of the European Communities and WITNESS. 30 minutes.

Discipline with Dignity, directed by Mohan Mainali and Mohan Bista, produced by Nepal Forum for Environmental Journalists with TVE. Produced in association with the Commission of the European Communities and WITNESS. 26 minutes.

Till Death Do Us Part, directed by Ihria Enakimio and Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, produced by Communicating for Change with TVE. Produced in association with the Commission of the European Communities and WITNESS. 27 minutes.

In the Name of Safety, directed by Catherine and Tareque Masud, produced by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) with TVE. Produced in association with the Commission of the European Communities and WITNESS. 23 minutes.

The Triumph over Terror Series is available from Bullfrog Films, www.bullfrogfilms.com.

Bullfrog Films has also released other titles of interest:

Flight of the StoneFlight of the Stone is a 15-minute, anecdotal look at the problem of violence. A man throws a rock in anger, but misses. The stone continues on its path around the world, until it meets the man again. The film is shot with a pixilation technique where the filmmakers took one frame every few feet on a trip to spots around the world. This would make an excellent discussion-starter for younger students.

Welcome to WomanhoodA Question of Rights: House on Fire

Welcome to Womanhood and A Question of Rights: House on Fire, examine issues relating to violence against women. Welcome to Womanhood is a follow-up to an earlier film (The Cutting Edge, 1996), which examined the UN’s efforts to curtail female genital mutilation in Uganda. This film tracks the progress made from 1996 until 1998. Although the practice still exists, some Ugandans have been persuaded to give up the practice, but more work remains to be done. A Question of Rights illustrates the problems of domestic violence in Jamaica. The film provides statistics along with interviews with women and experts working in the area.

Fury for the Sound

Fury for the Sound: The Women at Clayoquot is a well-made and interesting look at the protesters actively attempting to stop old-growth logging in Canada’s Cloyoquot Sound. The film makes many passioned arguments about the relationship between the environment and development and a citizen’s right to oppose exploitation of natural resources. However, this may be of more interest to our readers as a study in nonviolent action. The protesters at Clayoquot blockade the entrance to keep logging trucks with workers from entering the Sound. The film provides a good look at what happens at the blockade along with the actions of the police. Interviews with protesters at the blockade and those arrested for their action round out the film. This will be of special interest to anyone looking for a contemporary example of nonviolent protest.

Flight of the Stone, directed by Susanne Horizon-Fränzel, produced by Sultana Films. Selected awards: German Short Film of the Year, Sundance Film Festival, Prize of the International Jury, Ekotopfilm, Film Festival Max Ophüls Preis. 15 minutes.

Welcome to Womanhood, directed by Charlotte Metcalf, produced by TVE and BBC, hosted by Donu Kogbara. Selected Awards: Golden Spire, San Francisco International Film Festival; Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film Festival; Silver Apple, National Educational Media Network Competition; The Hague Cairo +5 Festival. 13.5 minutes.

A Question of Rights: House on Fire, directed by Diane Best, produced by Emily Marlow & Jenny Richards, Television Trust for the Environment. 15 minutes.

Fury for the Sound: The Women at Clayoquot, directed by Shelley Wine, produced by Telltale Productions. Selected Awards: People's Choice Award, Vermont Film Festival, Chris Award, Columbus International Film & Video Festival, Best of Category, International Wildlife Film Festival, Nominated, Best Political Film, HOT DOCS, Toronto, Nominated, Best Canadian Film/Video, Ontario Arts Council. 86 minutes.

These videos are available from Bullfrog Films, www.bullfrogfilms.com.

OJPCR: The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution is published by the Tabula Rasa Institute, www.trinstitute.org.