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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Zoom sur les trafics d’armes

by By Hassane Zerrouky

Getting a closer look at gun-running - a film review

Translated by Pedro F.S.

Translated Monday 30 January 2006, by Pedro

Lord of War - a new film explores the real world of arms-peddling.

The movie Lord of War by Andrew Nicoll tells of the life of a arms-dealer, based on facts and on those who make a huge fortune with deadly conflicts. . The main character, Youri Orlov, is played by Nicolas Cage.
“There are 550 million guns in the world, this means that one out of every 12 people has a gun. The question that remains is how to arm the other 11", announces right away the “hero” of a movie that has for background New York, the Ukraine, and mostly Africa, ravaged by wars that reach the four corners of the continent, and the natural reserve of gun peddling.
“Lord of war” is the story of a notorious fire-arms dealer, Youri Orlov, an American of Ukrainian origin who, when assisting in a score-settling scene between Russian mobsters in a New York restaurant, discovers just how much money can be made with gun-dealing. He starts by supplying mobsters, and then expands his trade to the Third world, namely Africa. This movie, sort of docu-fiction, provides an insight on selling lethal armaments, without falling into the plots typical of militant movies, even less into those of Hollywood cinema with happy endings where the good guys always win.
The director, Andrew Nicoll, based his film on facts, and the main character, played by Nicolas Cage, was assembled from the profiles and lifes of five real life arms dealers. Most surely the French Jean-Bernard Lasnaud, missing in 2002, the Egyptian Monzer Al Kassar, the Lebanon Sarkis Soghanalian and especially, the Russian of Tadjik origin, Victor Bout and the Ukrainian, Leonid Minin. It’s probably the life of these last two that gave the director the idea for Orlov’s character.
Andrew Nicoll had his scenario refused by Hollywood studios who considered him “anti-patriotic”. The Hollywood machine, he says, wanted the story told from the point of vue of the Interpol agent who pursues the weapons dealer and not the opposite. Basically, what the studios wanted was an American plot, where Good triumphs over Evil. The movie was finally financed by a French producer, Philippe Rousselet.
In this fictional world, the weapons-dealer is portrayed under the more sympathetic image of a good family man, whose wife has no idea about his trade, of a man doing his business without any sense of guilt, working with the worst criminals on the planet, like the African dictator that the spectator will have no problem in associating to the Liberian Charles Taylor.
Youri Orlov gets the guns in the Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which he is clearly very contented. Not because it meant the end of a political system, but instead because it opened up "the freedom to buy and sell guns". And we find him in the Ukraine where, thanks to a corrupt relative, an officer of the ex-Red Army, he has full access to the Soviet arsenals, until the officer in question is murdered by one of Orlov’s competitors.
Kalashnikovs, tanks and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) are smuggled into africa. On this continent, his client is the dictator of Liberia, played by the actor Eamonn Walker: children armed with Kalashnikovs form the core of his militia; the scenes of violence along with absolute misery are at the limits of the bearable.
An incorruptible Interpol agent pursues the cynical arms-peddler throughout the entire movie. But when he arrests him in New York, the gun-runner gets away free and with honors. Because, as Orlov explains to the agent, Washington needs men like him: George Bush while avoiding being photographed alongside bloody dictators, needs men like this to do his dirty work.
And the conclusion of the movie is tells un opn screen that the five members of the UN’s security counsel are the biggest arms dealers on the planet. Putting it in other words, men like Orlov don’t act on their own, but with the consent of the powerful in this world, and they support themselves with the policy of "free trade", so heralded by the pervasive neo-liberalist ideology.

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