Groundviews caught up with Callum McCrae, Director of the highly controversial and very disturbing film by Channel 4, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, in New York, a day before the film was due to be screened for senior diplomats, UN staff and others at the Church Centre, in front of the UN Headquarters. Callum was joined by Marion Bentley, Channel 4’s Publicity Manager.
The interview is around 43 minutes. Download the MP3 (~51Mb) of this interview here to listen offline. This podcast is anchored to the following questions.
- What was your objective in doing the C4 video now, more than 2 years after the end of the war?
- Killing of unarmed civilians, collateral damage, has occurred in other wars, other contexts British troops have been involved in? Has C4 covered them in as great detail?
- What is accountability for you? Do they think the video will help in achieving accountability in the SL case? How so?
- Who is your primary audience for the documentary? Why?
- What do you expect the viewers to do? Is the video empowering or overwhelming? There has been criticism that the video is so visceral, it takes away from the viewer taking any action.
- Do you believe a video such as what they produced will help those who were directly affected by the conflict and remain in SL?
- Have you spoken to any in SL before or after the video was made public? What has been the reaction?
- Do you have any future plans to work on similar videos or other initiatives regarding SL? If so, what?
- What do you make of the Government of Sri Lanka’s response to this documentary?
- What responses have they received from diaspora communities?
- Why are you here in New York?
- Where else do you intend to show the film?
The video footage
- Why, with all the footage of supposed aftermaths, is there not a single frame of an Army shell or Sri Lanka Airforce bomb actually hitting a civilian target?
- Why did C4 only showed the footage of naked female bodies and held back the ones of males. Ethics of selection?
On the interviews
- There are no interviews of anyone from the two warring militaries – the LTTE or the SL Armed Forces. Why?
- Why are there no interviews with anyone with an opposing or neutral viewpoint, even legal analysts, political commentators, military historians, etc.
- No expert witnesses were interviewed on military tactics or on the claims about deliberate targeting by artillery. Gordon Weiss book and the Convoy 11 incident.
- Ask him why former IDPs were not asked about what the LTTE were doing – child conscription, slave labour, human shields, etc or about their attempts to flee the Tigers. Or on their treatment by the Army when they did escape.
On the commentary in the video
- Some have pointed to a very large credibility gap between the footage and the commentary. E.g.: the commentary claimed the naked corpses had been raped even though there was no easily visible sign of any abuse on the bodies (so how did you know?); the men doing the killing in the execution clips were identified as soldiers even though there was no overt indication of it.
- In the opening credits / introduction, Jon Snow claims the UN panel has evidence when the panel report doesn’t say it does (credible allegations vs. evidence).
- Personal reflections on the making and final broadcast of the video.
- Do you ever want to come to Sri Lanka?