How did the project first come about? I made another movie in the Congo in ’97. And the only way to get into the region was to use the U.N. aircraft. I got friendly with the pilots and they said, “Don’t think we only bring [humanitarian aid] to the Congo.” I said, “What else are you bringing?” “Everything you need for the war.” Of course they wouldn’t tell me any of this on-camera. But I figured it would be worth a few years of my life to make a movie out of this! So I got to know this world of arms trafficking. Not necessarily illegal arms trafficking but also just arms transport from one government to another. Which is no less of a crime in my eyes.
Did you have any qualms about including the footage of the kids sniffing glue?
Not at all. It was something that I’d seen every day. My attitude is to document as [well] as I can. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care. It means [those are the moments] when I was filming. At other moments I was bringing them to the hospital. But that’s not the subject of the film. I don’t want to send a message that things are going wrong, but I’m a nice guy!
You talk about how the consumer democracy form of capitalism has “won” the global struggle in the Darwinian sense. Do you think there’s any way to stop the kind of things we see in this film? There are two ways. The first is to get much wider awareness of what we’re doing by opening [these] markets. The other possible solution is global breakdown. I don’t see [how] current developments can keep on going. There’s a big difference between knowing and awareness. You don’t need me to tell you that kids are starving in Africa. But I can give you a different awareness in the language of art. There isn’t anything new in my movie. It’s all known. I just give it a face. Somehow that transforms our knowing into understanding. At least that’s what I hope.