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Thoughts on Bomb Harvest

Posted on the 24 April 2014 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan

Movie: Bomb Harvest

Director: Kim Mordaunt

Cast: Phonesai Silavan, Laith Stevens and Linthong Syphavong

Rating: ****

According to this documentary by Australian filmmaker Kim Mordaunt (popular now for ‘The Rocket), Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world. What’s even more fascinating is that hundreds of live bombs (that could explode god knows when) are still lying unattended here. In any other part of the world, this could be the most dangerous circumstances to live in but not for the people of Laos, who have learnt to make it a way of life.

Abject poverty in Laos has triggered brisk illegal trade in bomb scrap metal. Children here are always on the lookout for bombs because the metal from it can feed a family for nearly a week. Instead of going to school, they wake up every morning hoping to find bombs. Some children have familiarized themselves with these bombs that by simply looking at it they know whether it will be of any use to them or not. Some have died trying to dismantle a bomb and others have lost a leg or hand, yet people here have not stopped looking for bombs because it is money for them at the end of the day.

In a particular scene, a group of young children discover a bomb, of a kind they have not seen before. They are scared to approach it but “its money they are looking at”, says one among them. Others concur with slight hesitation. As they plan to move closer to the bomb, they’re stopped by a bomb disposal team headed by Australian bomb disposal specialist Laith Stevens.

Stevens and his team are on a mission to dispose live bombs. They have a target to achieve and a team of novice bomb disposal specialists to be trained. Over the course of next few days, Stevens trains his team to pick up live bombs from different parts of Laos, and dispose it in wilderness. They start with just a few on the first day and gradually increase the number with every passing day, covering as many bombs as possible. But there are also bombs (different shapes and sizes with different mechanism inside) that they can’t diffuse and need real experts to do it.

Director Kim Mordaunt doesn’t want us to look at the remaining bombs in Laos, but the lives it has affected over the years and continues to do so. It’s not numbers (of bombs) you need to look at but at the degree of damage it has caused on the people of this country. In another scene, an old man tells how he lost his entire family (over 10 members) due to bombings many years ago and still sleeps at night with fear in his heart. He says he hardly has any memories of his childhood because all that he could remember was trying to protect themselves from bombs day in and day out. Several other tragic stories make “Bomb Harvest” an emotionally devastating watch.

At 88 minutes, the documentary doesn’t merely narrate horror and tragic stories, but also leaves room for humor to entertain the viewer. In order to get his team alive through the harrowing task of diffusing live bombs, Stevens uses jokes to bond with the members and breathes confidence in them through his can-do attitude. Most of the team sequences are highly motivating and inspiring. An all men’s team is lead by a woman (proof that women have excelled in all professions) and there’s unimaginable bravery to put lives at risks to save lives.

“Bomb Harvest” is a brave documentary on the consequences of war on a third world country. It succeeds in making you feel for the people you’ve never met or will ever meet.

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