A film by Alison McMahan, co-produced by Mathieu Roberts
"Land mines are the perfect soldiers: they never sleep, and they never die. However, they also don't know which side they're on, or when the war is over."
- Touj Souerly, Chief of Veal Thom, landmine survivor
Around the world, landmines claim 26,000 new victims a year - that's 71 people every day. Already over a quarter of a million people have fallen victim to the more than 100 million landmines in 64 countries, a number that continues to grow. These landmines are installed during wartime, but usually attack their victims years later, after the conflict they were set for is long over.
Nowhere is this truer than in Cambodia, where 35 percent more land could be cultivated if it weren't polluted with landmines. Victims from landmines often die and leave behind their dependents. Those who survive are disabled, a condition that guarantees a lifetime of ostracism and extreme impoverishment in a country where half the population already lives below the poverty level.
Most amputees end up becoming beggars, but 227 of them, along with their families, have rejected this path and banded together in the village of Veal Thom, 60 miles NW of Phnom Penh, to improve their lives as a group in ways that they could not have done on their own. Without support they are coping with a dearth of resources (including a lack of clean water) and have set about building a school and running cooperative farms.
David Bruce McMahan's philanthropy organization, McMahan Center-Abilities Activists, along with The World Rehabilitation Fund, have recognized the enormity of what the inhabitants of Veal Thom have already accomplished - that is, to refuse to let themselves be defined by their disabilities. They have designed a unique peer-to-peer training program that brings vocational training to the villagers, who in turn train their neighbors. The training has enabled over 150 people to work at new jobs or start new businesses. This film shows the human cost of landmines, which are designed to maim, not kill, the training process for these amputees and their courage and persistence in the face of overwhelming odds as they build a new life for themselves. For an update on the lives of the subjects of this film, please visit Veal Thom Profiles.
DVCam, 4:3 aspect ratio
NTSC, Region 0 DVD
Running Time: 54 minutes
Screeners available on DVD and DigiBeta