Shelley Saywell's latest documentary Running Guns: A Journey Into the Small Arms Trade doesn't surprise me at all. For years Saywell has been crafting a series of often brilliant documentaries on the precarious state of human rights around the world. Here she tackles the illegal global arms trade and her 70-minute production is chock full of insights (Kiefer Sutherland provides the narration).
Saywell starts at a huge armaments fair where every kind of weapon is on sale. There are megabucks to be made here and it's a surprise to learn the biggest manufacturers these days are Russia and China. Allations are supposed to adhere to an international code of conduct. But Saywell starts with the arrest (in Thailand) of illegal gun lord Viktor Bout. And she interviews others who tell all about the world of armaments smuggling into third world countries. Several pilots freely talk about ferrying supplies from continent to content, stirring up civil wars from Angola to Bosnia to Somalia. One even gave her his home movies of harrowing moments.
One big surprise: the armaments used to stir up unrest in Bosnia were recycled by Bout and others in African hot spots. Saywell has some great footage of the unprotected northern Kenyan border to show how the smuggling works--there is a rusted gate and immigration booth but even goats saunter through without being stopped. In Somalia small boys of eight are seen with their rifles and whole camps of refugees are controlled by marauders. Now it's Nairobi's turn to experience running gun battles which the police are unable to stop.
Saywell's images are stark and vivid. She won an Emmy for the shattering documentary Crimes Of Honour which examined "femicide:" in the Middle East and she should win a second one for Running Guns, it's that compelling.
Running Guns is part of a double bill about illegal arms sales on HISTORY TELEVISION, SUNDAY MARCH 1 AT 7:30 P.M.