Bombies

2001, 57 minutes
Director: Jack Silberman
Producer: Lumiere Productions
Distributed by Bullfrog Films

Laotian boy with cluster bomb
            
 Stills 
   
 Essay 
      

Summary

 

During the Vietnam War the U.S. Air Force dropped an estimated 90 million cluster bombs in neighboring Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country in history. Often called "the secret war," the bombing took place without congressional approval and violated the Geneva Accords of 1962, which prohibited attacking Laos. Bombies tells the story of these attacks and their legacy.


Bombies - Child's drawing of kids finding cluster bombs
Today the country is still littered with millions of unexploded bombs, referred to locally as "bombies." They are particularly menacing to children, who are attracted by their small round shapes. One third of all bombie victims are children. The unexploded bombs also imposes a huge threat to farmers, who strike the land to prepare it for farming. The massive problem was first brought into the international spotlight by Mennonite missionaries who began aid work in the country in 1975. Today the Mennonites partner with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a British humanitarian group that trains villagers in the painstaking process of identifying and disposing of bombs. Their commitment to this cause is extraordinary; every year bomb disposal teams destroy more than 10,000 pieces of ordnance.

The U.S. has helped train hundreds of people, including medical personnel and demolition teams, and has set up a fund to cover medical expenses of bomb victims. However, criticism of the U.S. continues since the military has recently dropped cluster bombs in Kuwait, Iraq, Sudan, Kosovo, and other countries. Part of MAG's quest is to ban the use of this technology all together.


Bombies - Laotian children with US bombs
The film also illustrates the enormous impact the use of cluster bombs has had on former U.S. Navy man Lee Thorn, who loaded planes with bombs during the war. Thorn recalls how planes destined for Vietnamese targets unloaded on Laos simply because the original targets became unreachable, and they did not want to land planes loaded with munitions. The experience left him so disturbed that he still suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He returns to Laos to confront his demons, and has created a foundation to aid Laotian hospitals and improve the standard of living.

Set among a lush and magnificent landscape, this film provides a compelling example of how activism and outreach can improve the lives of people affected by war. It is suitable for teen and adult audiences. However, due to graphic images of bombie victims, it is not appropriate for younger persons.

 

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