Canadian filmmaker documents horrors of landmines
Published Wednesday, April 4, 2012 11:05PM EDT
Richard Fitoussi did not set out to be a crusader against landmines, but when the Canadian filmmaker went to Cambodia on a job, the morbid experience changed his life.
It was during a visit to the war-torn country that Fitoussi saw the death and destruction caused by the devices, which are often called "the weapon that knows no ceasefire."
"There's not much attention being given to the thousands of people that are at risk" from landmines, Fitoussi told CTV's Seamus O'Regan.
Now Fitoussi's documentary, "Landmine ER," which takes viewers inside Cambodia's busiest trauma hospital, is in the spotlight as the world premiere of the look at the dangers of landmines was shown at the United Nations Wednesday.
The grisly film follows a landmine victim's progress from his arrival at the hospital to treatment, surgery, and ultimately rehabilitation as he struggles to come to terms with life as an amputee.
Fitoussi's mission began in 2007 following a chance encounter with a former Cambodian child soldier named Aki Ra.
"About five minutes after meeting him, he said, ‘Do you want to come out and clear land mines with me?' and I said yes," Fitoussi recounts.
His camera rolled as Aki Ra, armed with nothing more than a hammer and wrench, cleared 60 mines a day.
Aki Ra was already well-known in his native country for his skills in clearing the deadly devices.
He would defuse the landmines that he found in Cambodia villages, often as tourists who heard about the skilled young man looked on, sometimes paying a dollar to witness the incredible feat.
About 10 days after the pair met, Aki Ra enlisted the filmmaker's help in setting up a Canadian non-governmental organization and a landmine museum and orphanage, which opened in 2007.
Now Fitoussi maintains that the devastating effects of landmines were not known to Canadians until the war in Afghanistan brought the grim realities of the devices home.
"In Afghanistan, that changed," Fitoussi said. "We've lost 70 percent of our soldiers to this weapon."
And this is a reality the filmmaker knows all too well.
During an assignment in Afghanistan a jeep blew up just in front of Fitoussi. Four Canadian soldiers were killed that day.
Fitoussi still suffers from post-traumatic stress, but he measures his condition against his Cambodian friend.
"If he's going to be all right then I'm going to be just fine because this man has seen more death and destruction than I will have seen in a lifetime," he said.
With a report by CTV's Seamus O'Regan