Monday, June 1, 2009

A decent documentary about the global arms trade

Devil's Bargain: A Journey into the Small Arms Trade
Seen at DOXA, the Vancouver documentary film festival.

If you've seen Lord of War, the largely ignored film starring Nicholas Cage as an international arms dealer, this documentary covers a lot of the same ground. In fact, Cage's character is based on the arms dealer Victor Boot who--as shown in Devils' Bargain--is simultaneously hunted by law enforcement for supplying arms to the world's insurgencies while working for the US department of defense.

Like Lord of War, the film explores the intricate routes small arms take from the rusting eastern bloc arsenals into the hands of combatants from Iraq to the streets of Nairobi. What's great about this film is its visual depiction of globalization, starting in Somalia (actually I missed the first few minutes so this is where I came in) where we meet a group of young men armed with Kalashnikovs. One is giving an impassioned speech about the need to be armed amidst the chaos of post-collapse Somalia. His friend, looking bemused, says "what did you say? no, we use these to rape women."

From there we hear from Moldovan pilots, a Russian who runs an African air-cargo company, and plenty of arms salesmen as they discuss the finer points of lightweight automatic weapons. The talking heads include people from various organizations that document the global movement of arms to John Bolton who defends the US's stance against an international treaty to regulate the industry ludicrously claiming it would violate Americans' second amendment rights.

Watch this in tandem with Lord of War and Darwin's Nightmare and you'll have a pretty good idea of how it works.


  1. Interesting, the clip that we were left with as the doc ended: a man selling guns saying that if there were no market for them he'd move onto something else, he's a businessman he says. So, I guess the final word is: Money talks.

  2. That being said, I think it makes it even more important to facilitate humanitarian projects that help local industry and economies flourish in volatile places that have little else besides the gun markets to subsist on.

  3. Sookie Stackhouse? Forgive me, I just watched True Blood season one over three days.

    But yeah, that last clip of the arms seller stuck in my mind as well. I know what you mean about helping local industry flourish but I think before that can happen there needs to be stability.

    By all accounts the reign of the Islamic Courts Union a few years ago was the most peaceful six months in many years. But it had to be disrupted by the American backed Ethiopian invasion.