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Zagreb Film Festival Mordaunt and Wilczyinski interview

6th Zagreb Film Festival this year offered a pretty good documentary program. 

     A "Bomb Harvest"

      produced by Lemur Films Australia, established by the director/writer of film Kim Mordaunt and producer Sylvia Wilczyinski on Zagreb Film Festival went very well. Mourdaunt and Wilczynskiare are known by award winning dramas and documentaries done for ABC TV, SBS TV and Discovery. 


1.       What is the story about Laos?

Sylvia: Laos was the country heavily bombed during Vietnam War, and now after 35 years, there are still bombs all over. And we followed Laith Stevens, Australian bomb specialist from Australian Army, a trained Laos bomb specialist, following the story of young children in Laos, going out, searching for the bomb shelves, in order to sell them on, because country is so poor. This is a terrible irony of the war.

2.    How did you get the idea for the film in the first place?

Sylvia: The first time we found out about the subject is when we were living and working in Vietnam. We traveled to Laos, and we fall in love with the country, we fall in love with people. They are very warm, funny, down to earth people. Then one night we have met couple of bomb specialists and they started telling us about work they do. And then, we saw that we have to make this subject down to wide audience. Also, since we’ve met bombs specialists, we know they are great characters, very funny, gutsy, brave and down to earth as well. Sort of characters that people write scripts and films about. They are such a great characters. Not only that we have fantastic subject but we also have got great characters. And that’s the main thing you need for film. Then we went back for research, talking to other bomb specialists, introduces them, soon gradually we’ve met Stevens, who is himself, such a great character. They’ve been very funny and very warm, even though they’re dealing with very serious, very grim subject of the legacy and bombs left over from the war. They are incredibly funny.


Lot of them developed friendship with the local people. Interpreter is an ex monk, who has been monk for 13 years and now he has got a career change, to work on bomb disposal, chasing women and drinking beer on every opportunity. There’s a lot of humor in the film as well. That’s one of the main response in all of the film reviews that we had. The film has been very well critically acclaimed and critics loved film humor.

3.       How the Australian audience accepted the film?

Kim: We did about 20 questions quiz, relating the subject. And the majority of audience didn’t know what happened in Laos. They didn’t know that there was a secret war. US bombed Laos pretty much in secret for 6 years. Country all together had 9 years of bombing. The thing is, people knew a little about it. I think if they see our film, it will make an impact. Also about lives and people who live with bombs today. People were very interested.

Sylvia: We actually had the screening in Hollywood. That was our first American screening and we have got Human Right Award. We were a little nervous about first screening in America, it’s about the war that was conducted by America illegally, without approval of congress, without knowledge of American people. Our film is very much against of this bombing. So we were very curious to see reaction in America. It was very positive reaction, very similar to reaction in Australia. People were horrified about the amount of bombs still to remain so long after the war. They were ashamed as we were because they really didn’t know about it. We have got very positive response afterwards from people who saw the film.

Kim: Something about Australia: the screening happened without last government blessing. John Howard, the previous president, was very conservative, terrible government really. We had him for 3 terms, and during his rule, we had an order of cluster bombs using. Australian government placed 40 million dollars order for cluster bombs, and only recently with new government, that order has been canceled.

Our film has been on news. People were very interested in Australian position in all this, about cluster bombs order affair. 98% of people have been killed with these bombs, so there is a world wide call for these bombs to be banned. And our film has been used around the world, in order of that to be pushed in public. That has been a

good outcome of our film.


4.    Next project?

Kim: We have a few feature films in development. When you make a “Bomb Harvest” it’s very hard to make another subject, no matter. The subject gets to your gut and you dream about it. Sylvia and I constantly dreaming about Laos, children and place. Next film that is taken as priority is a drama fiction.  Some are the similar characters to “Bomb Harvest”; ultimately in some funny sort of way, it will be political.  Some of the things that happened off camera will probably be in the film. And I am writing it with another writer Australian writer, well known Howard Jackson. We were also working with another producer, man called Tristan Mayer. He is a very well known producer; he just produced “The Black Balloon”, one big feature film in Berlin.

At the moment, feature I’m writing is a drama feature film that will be set around bridge that needs to be cleared up from bombs, but won’t be cleared because of the kids who are running around the set, and can click the bombs when ever there’s a chance. All this happened in this village. So it is going to be very interesting project. We will probably cast couple of well known actors, to bring a big audience in, but one thing that I would really like to do is to cast child characters from Laos for kids they are collecting bomb scraps. They would be very experienced actors cause they have been forced into a that kind of reality any way. The real people situations I think always make interesting productions.   5.    Is it going to be an Australian film then?Kim: It will be an Australian film. We’ll see how it goes, it might become a co-production. One thing you find out very quickly is that one of the opening scenes in our film will be “The Bombing Ally” at the night it went off, in bomb disposal action. In such actions you get there people from all around the world, you get bomb specialist from Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany. There are from everywhere, so we will probably have quite international cast, but the main characters will be Australian.


6.     Are you going to engage experienced actors?

Kim: I think for main role we are going to engage experienced actor. It will be very difficult because he has got to be an actor who is part of a feature film that is basically about bomb specialist with great deal of nerve. It’s going to be very complex role. So I think that we will have very experienced actor in lead role and then maybe less experienced actors for other roles and even some of real people from Laos environment. Now we are having a long process of writing, raising finance…That will be the hardest part.  

7.      So you are going to collect money from?

Kim: It’s a mixture resource, from government art funds and private investors. People who want to invest in our film please contact us. The quicker the better, so that we can make this film.          


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