By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik November 23, 2004 at 6:23AM
If 2004 was the year that many Americans realized the potent political potential of the documentary, activist groups have been using the medium since it was invented. I recently got an email from Witness, a human rights program aimed at exposing injustice through the moving image, about their latest video "Against the Tide of History: Landmines in the Casamance." The film documents the socio-economic, medical and psychological effect of landmines on the survivors of these so-called 'blind' weapons in Senegal.
Our lovely U.S. government doesn't use conventional landmines anymore, but continues to use "smart" landmines, which Human Rights Watch recently called "a dumb solution" "that cannot differentiate between soldiers and civilians," continuing to kill indiscriminately. In February 2004, the U.S. announced that it would not sign the Ottawa Treaty (Mine Ban Treaty) and would push back the date to eliminate some mines to 2010, and would retain the right to use other "smart" mines indefinitely.
Witness continues to be active around the world, and if you're a would-be documentary filmmaker looking to get involved and help the world, the program is always seeking volunteers to help collect work for their raw footage archive. Other recent Witness productions include "System Failure: Violence, Abuse, and Neglect in the California Youth Authority" and 2002's "Rise: Revolutionary Women Reenvisioning Afghanistan."