No justice when fascinating lives are crammed into a short slot :Rev

No justice when fascinating lives are crammed into a short slot : Review
by Ian Bell

The Herald (Glasgow)
May 28, 2004

One Day of War: This World
BBC2, 9.00pm
No Going Back
Channel 4, 8.00pm

If One Day of War was to be believed, it isn’t hard to become a
terrorist. An accident of birth, a brutal government, or even the
desire to run a brutal government of your very own: given any one of
these you have a good chance of winding up as one of the two people
who die every minute because of war. Alternatively, you could be
helping someone else to join the silent ranks of the dead.

This was a documentary brilliant in its conception but shaky in its
execution. The idea was to film 16 people at war in various uncongenial
parts of the planet on a single day and provide a snapshot of global
conflict. The trouble was that the attempt to cram so many stories
into 90 minutes led to potted biographies and potted history.

If ever a film demanded context, it was this one. We kicked off,
for example, with Comrade Grace, an 18-year-old in the ranks of the
New People’s Army in the Philippines. This movement’s claim to fame
is that it is “the world’s longest -running active group of communist
rebels”. For 30 years they’ve been slogging it out in the jungle. We
heard that they once attacked American bases, but these days harass
the government. Why?

With some tales, it is true, you could just about work out the
fighter’s motivation. Shushila Magar, a 24-year-old Nepalese woman,
was clearly sincere. You have to be dedicated when the only weapons
you have are flintlock rifles. Equally, if you live in a feudal state
that condemns half its people to exist on less than a dollar a day,
you tend to be militant.

Nevertheless, when Shushila said that modern weapons don’t matter if
you had ideology as a weapon, you suspected that her group might be
competing with the New People’s Army for revolutionary longevity. The
Nepalese fighters were also described as Maoists. Yet again, I would
have loved someone to explain what that means in the 21st century.

These were stories of our times, but they were, as often as not, the
same old story. Poverty and oppression fuel rebellion, the revolution
sours and “liberation” soon resembles the same old tyranny. You
couldn’t quibble with the heroism of Mousa Ibragim Osman, a fighter
with the Sudan Liberation Army, nine of whose brothers have died
while an Arab Muslim government has been ethnically cleansing black
Muslims. You wondered, though, how the SLA would behave if they were
on top.

What was most striking about these conflicts, nevertheless, was the
world’s eagerness to forget them. Hands up who knew that the trench
warfare in Nagorno Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan has lasted
three times as long as the First World War? Corporal Albert Hinasyan,
an Armenian conscript, didn’t even try to explain what that one was
all about.

There were good wars and bad wars. You could feel for the Karen
National Liberation Army, who have been fighting for independence from
a genocidal Burmese government for 55 years. It wasn’t so easy to cheer
for Colombia’s FARC, a revolutionary corporation raking in $ 300m a
year from drugs, extortion and kidnapping. This documentary made each
of these conflicts seem like the same conflict. That was truly unjust.

Injustice was uppermost in the minds of Chris and Katie Day, ages
11 and 14 respectively, going on three. What, you wondered, did
Austria do to deserve this pair? Their father was fed up working 87
hours a week as a milkman; their mother had fallen in love with the
Austrian Alps. Together, the parents had sunk every penny they had,
plus £ 130,000 borrowed from a bank, into a mountain hotel. Were the
cherubs having it? They were not.

“I’m not goin’ to school ‘ere,” Katie announced before entering an
institution that should have demanded her instant deportation. The
boy, meanwhile, had to be lifted from the car. The dream was turning
into a nightmare, but the Day family had brought a little bit of hell
with them. Fun to watch, though, in a grisly sort of way.

GRAPHIC: CAMPAIGN: Roger Rosal speaks for the Philippines’ rebel group.