In 2001 director and producer Sander Francken was commissioned by the Dutch government to make a cinematic report of a Dutch financed small arms collection and destruction program in Cambodia, a country that had been flooded by small arms during 35 years of civil war.
In Phnom Penh, Francken made acquaintance with an international group of disarmament experts, amongst them Henny van der Graaf, a former general in the Dutch army, who opened up an urgent global issue to him. This issue was, and still is, fairly unknown in most parts of the industrialized world: the ongoing legal and illegal widespread of small arms – most of them fabricated in the so called developed countries and fuelling countless wars in developing countries.
After finishing his cinematic report on the Cambodian disarmament project, titled FIGHTING WEAPONS FOR DEVELOPMENT, Francken went on studying the issue on a more global scale. And he discovered soon that the international community had supported the publication of hundreds, maybe even thousands of research reports, studies, books and other written materials on the issue of small arms throughout the last decade. But most of this information never reached much further than the same group of experts. Francken also realized that as long as the issue of small arms proliferation has not become a subject of public awareness and discussion, arms-producing countries will not be compelled to take the steps necessary to reign in the overabundance of small arms worldwide.
This realisation made him decide to produce a film that would involve a wider international audience in the issue of small arms.
In parallel storylines DEALING AND WHEELING IN SMALL ARMS shows how people relate in various ways to arms: arms cherished as collectors-item, small arms shot with passion and for a ‘feel of power’, arms as state-of-the-art design, arms as lucrative trade-off, but also small arms destroying possessions and lively-hoods, disrupting families, killing loved-ones. Small arms are part of our culture, passion, power and manliness, but are destroying our human condition.
Small arms – the contemporary weapons of mass destruction – are set high on the international political agenda but any wider public discussion within the public domain remains absent. As long as the issue of small arms proliferation has not become a subject of public discussion, arms-producing countries will not be compelled to take the steps necessary to reign the overabundance of small arms worldwide.