October, 2004

Kompong Thom, Cambodia

Greetings all,

We have been in country for three weeks, and the film is progressing nicely. We have finished our first round of interviews in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep with many of the landmine removal and UXO experts, and now have moved onto our second round of province work. We are currently in Kompong Thom, approximately 3 hours north of Phnom Penh, which was bombed erratically by multiple forces in the early 1970's.

A week ago we were contacted by a scrap metal seeker who searches for scrap to sell to scrap metal houses in central Cambodia. We had interviewed him earlier, and he contacted us to inform us that a friend had found a bomb, and we could document the process they go through if we liked.

So, for past week we have spent four hours a day on the back of motos (camera in lap, all other equipment strapped to backs), riding over the semblance of roads (the experience us probably akin to what a bronco rider feels) only to arrive at our location - quite literally carved out of

the jungle. The process of documenting how a small group of people is able to pull a huge, unexploded 1,000 lb bomb from 25 feet below the ground has been eye-opening. To witness our subjects then straddle the bomb and - smoking all the while - take a hacksaw to it in order to extract the TNT has been somewhat harrowing.

The ethical dilemmas abound. Multiple times we have asked our subjects whether or not they would go through this process regardless of our presence (as well as remind them of the volatile combination of cigarettes and TNT). The truth seems to be that UXO recycling for profit is going to exist as long as there are bombs in the ground, a market to sell them to, and poverty-ridden people living in contaminated areas. I am reminded of the question in Frei's film WAR PHOTOGRAPHER on whether or not journalists profit by other's misfortune....