Urban Cinefile Review of Bomb Harvest

Bomb Harvest

Review by Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile, October 2007


Over 35 years ago during the Vietnam War, American bombs rained on Laos in the 'secret war', leaving it the most bombed country in history. A large, live bomb is found behind a village school and Australian bomb disposal specialist Laith Stevens, in the midst of training a new 'big bomb' team, reluctantly leaves the work until the team is up to the task. Reluctantly, because the local children are drawn to the illegal bomb scrap metal trade. Over 13,000 have been killed or injured by such bombs - over half of them children.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A surprisingly multi-layered film, Bomb Harvest combines facts with emotions in a gripping account of the contemporary bomb disposal work in Laos. But in doing so, it bites deep into the wounds of the Vietnam war and America's secretive bombing campaign on the neutral country, in its effort to stop the Vietcong using it as a supply route and hiding place. The carnage and destruction caused was immense.

Powerfully anti-war in the most humane sense, the film uses some archival footage in a well edited structure that includes close ups of faces that help make the story personal as well as global.

Yet, strangely enough, the touches of down to earth Aussie humour seems entirely appropriate amidst the danger and the destruction that was caused - and continues while the unexploded bombs (about 30% of the many hundreds of thousands that were dropped) continue to pose a real danger.

Children and the elderly are featured, as is Aussie expert Laith Stevens, who reveals that both his brothers are also disposal experts - and their father wasn't even in the army. He is training teams of locals in the dangerous task of disposing of bombs. We also see them relaxing at the end of the day.

A well made, well photographed and tirelessly sensitive doco, Bomb Harvest is a significant work that touches on all the ugly politics of war and its miserable aftermath. And unsaid but screaming out loud is the obvious question: why aren't the Americans taking away their unexploded bombs?