Interview with Bombies filmmaker, John Silberman
What generally inspires you as a documentary filmmaker?
I am inspired by people struggling for peace and justice and, as a filmmaker, am particularly interested in untold stories.
When and how did you decide to undertake this project?
Bombies - Child's drawing of kids finding cluster bombs
I first heard about the problem of unexploded cluster bombs in Laos in 1992, when a neighbor of mine, who is an international development consultant, returned from an assignment there. He told me that people, mostly children, were still being killed daily by bombs dropped 30 years earlier. He said that for something to be done about the problem, the world first needed to know about it. He also said that a film was needed, and if I didn't make it, who would?
I must admit that, at first, I doubted that his accounts were even true. However, the story captured my imagination and two years later when I had a chance to visit Laos, I jumped at it. I discovered that the situation was even worse than he had described. That's when I decided to somehow find a way to make Bombies.
What were your goals in making Bombies? What would you like a viewer to understand after seeing the film and what would you like to see happen with the film?
My goal was to help make people aware of the problems caused by cluster bombs, particularly the situation in Laos. In addition, I wanted to provide Lao villagers with an opportunity to tell their own stories in their own words.
I would like to see the film support the growing international movement to ban cluster bombs. In America, I would like viewers to write their congresspeople asking them to support a ban on cluster bombs and to increase aid to Laos to help deal with the problem of unexploded ordnance.
What were some of the difficulties and challenges you experienced in making this film? When filming, how do you hold your emotions back when you see injustice or suffering?
Bombies - Laotian farm family in their fields
Some of the difficulties included working in remote locations, working with people who spoke a language that I didn't, and, especially, working around extremely dangerous live ordnance. When I see injustice or suffering I try not to ignore it, but to recognize it, and use the experience to re-dedicate myself to making the best film that I can.
Did your initial theories or feelings towards the subject change during filming? If so, how or in what ways? How do you incorporate (or ignore) those changes into the filmmaking experience?
I did two research and one pre-production trips to Laos prior to the commencement of photography, so I had a good foundation in the subject matter and had a good idea of what I wanted to shoot. However, one thing that I became more aware of during production was the amazing resilience of the Lao people, living and working in an environment so heavily contaminated with bombies. I tried to include several sequences in the film where the spirit of these people would be evident.
What are you currently working on or what would you like to be working on?
Bombies - Laotian children with US bombs
I am currently making a film for the National Film Board of Canada about Refuseniks - Israeli soldiers who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to fight in the Occupied Territories.