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Canadian filmmaker Velcrow Ripper sets out on a unique pilgrimage, visiting the 'Ground Zeros' of the planet. Is it possible to find hope in the darkest moments of human history, from the minefields of Cambodia; war-torn Afghanistan; the toxic wasteland of Bhopal; post-9/11 New York; Bosnia; Hiroshima; Israel and Palestine. It's five-year odyssey to discover if humanity can transform the 'scared' into the 'sacred'. Deep in the jungles of Cambodia, Ripper meets Aki Ra, a child soldier forced to lay landmines for the Khmer Rouge. Today Aki wanders his ravaged country with a simple wooden stick, decommissioning thousands of mines each year. In the shattered land of Afghanistan, Ripper searches for a Sufi musician who was banned from performing or even listening to music, by the fundamentalist Taliban. The musician discovered a way out: he filled his house with songbirds.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
When you call yourself Velcrow Ripper you must a) want to attract attention and b) expect to be inspected for Velcrow rippingness - whatever that is. It may not sound very harmonious or peaceful, but at least with this film, the Canadian documentarian seems to espouse solutions to the world's major problem: human nature.

For example, he films the Dalai Lama speaking to a gathering, first recognising that "while we all live on this small blue planet, some form of problem is always there..." But he goes on to urge us to shun violence, while also urging us to action. "Not just prayers..." Of course he means action that produces results, which is hard to achieve; but violence is an even lesser alternative, since it achieves only more violence and little by way of solution.

If you already knew that, don't worry, there is plenty more in this film, narrated by Ripper in a slow, quiet, almost whispering voice, seeking to generate a poetic, calm and positive tone to what is intrinsically a negative view of the world. But when he finds an image to match his sense of hope, the film does offer a more positive view of humanity. Ripper gets a bit too new age at times, breathing in the black smoke of suffering and breathing out compassion ... but he means well. It works best when he lets others do the talking, like a couple of people from the Bereaved Parents Circle, mothers and fathers who have lost children on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

Other than its meandering, home movie style and overlong running time, the film is engaging and notable for pinpointing through individual stories how the big picture of oppression, fanaticism and hate works. Sadly for us all, it speaks only to the converted, those who recognise how humanity is at once sacred and scared - of its own capacity for harm.

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(Canada, 2004)

NARRATION: Velcrow Ripper

PRODUCER: Tracey Friesen, Cari Green, Harry Sutherland

DIRECTOR: Velcrow Ripper

SCRIPT: Velcrow Ripper


EDITOR: Velcrow Ripper

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: August 3; Melbourne, Perth: August 24, 2006

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