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Australia 2007
Directed by
Kim Mordaunt
88 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3.5 stars

Bomb Harvest

Synopsis:  35 years ago during the Vietnam War the country of Laos was the victim of hundreds of bombing raids as America targeted them as part of the so-called Secret War. The country today is still a bombsite and it is Laith Stevens and the members of the Mines Advisory Group (M.A.G) who have the job of clearing the countryside of the remnants of a brutal war. Unexploded bombs are everywhere whilst the children of Laos, risking life and limb to earn $20, enough money to feed their families for a week, by collecting the bombs for scrap.

Next time you find it hard getting up on a Monday morning spare a thought for Laith Stevens. You may hate your job and despise your boss but chances are there is very little chance of you being blown up by an unexploded bomb. This is the fear that Stevens must face every day as he helps the people of Laos create a new life for themselves in the worn-torn country that bore the brunt of America’s blanket bombing during the Vietnam War.

We all know that the Americans shouldn’t have been at war in South-East Asia in the first place but the documentary focuses on what Stevens is trying to do. He is one of those unsung heroes for whom the format of documentary was invented and the filmmakers should be commended for bringing his story to a wider audience. A charming Aussie larrikin with a marvellously irreverent sense of humour, his passion is saving this poverty-stricken country from its past. We join him as he is about to set off on a training mission to disarm 69 bombs in 4 weeks. His team of students are a delightful bunch. in particular his translator Bob, an ex-monk who now spends most of his waking hours making up for lost time. This self-proclaimed ladies’ man makes for a humorous diversion, as the rest of the film is often a nerve-wracking watch. In particular the scenes as the young children, blinded by the financial possibilities that scrap metal could bring their families, collect unexploded bombs and mortars. As Stevens says “bombs are the new cash crop of Laos!”  It’s also amazing to see the use of old bomb and missile casings in the villages. Some are used as stilts for houses, others as ovens.

Director Kim Mordaunt has put together an enthralling documentary that makes excellent use of archival footage gives to give the main story a historical background. Bomb Harvest may lack the crowd-pleasing qualities of the work of a Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock but, commendably, it looks to the human side of this tragedy without indulging in political finger-pointing.




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