Video Review: Breaking Bows and Arrows.
Firelight Productions & Tiger Eye Productions. Produced by Ellenor Cox. Written and directed by Liz Thompson. 2001. 52 minutes.
Following is Director Liz Thompson’s excellent description of the documentary:
I was inspired to make Breaking Bows and Arrows after meeting Blendine Sisio, a widow whose husband was shot during the decade long Bougainville Crisis.
Blendine spoke of her desire to meet with her husbands killers and the hope that together they could retrieve his bones and give him a proper burial. Blendine was haunted by the fact her husbands remains had not been brought to their rightful resting place and by the anger she felt towards the killers. She wished not only to free herself from the bitterness she carried but also to release the killers from the guilt and alienation she believed they were experiencing.
Her extraordinary desire to reconcile typifies the sentiment of so many Bougainvilleans who have lost loved ones during the war. Freeing themselves from hatred and the cohesion of the community is of greater importance than revenge.
This basic premise seemed to portray such a message of hope and demonstrate the tremendous human capacity to forgive -- it struck me as a potent message and an example not only for other communities traumatised and divided by war but for all of us.
As the filming unfolded, the largest inter-district ceremony yet to take place on the island was about to occur after nearly three years of preparation. Key fighters from both sides came together in a traditionally based reconciliation ceremony which included thousands of spectators.
Men who had killed each others’ families shared betel nut, broke bows and arrows in a traditional gesture of peace, shook hands and exchanged traditional wealth. Finally a stone was buried as a monument to the strength of the commitment to end the fighting.
Francis Bisivere, one of the participants, then went on an even more challenging emotional journey. He dug up the bones of a chief he murdered during the crisis and ceremonially returned them to Immaculate Atorevi, the bereaved wife and relatives.
During this process he tells of how he seeks forgiveness and a release from guilt. As the wife and family grieve over the coffin Francis is clearly moved. The emotional legacy of war is painfully evident and the pain and suffering he has caused are hard for him to bear.
After the ceremony Francis speaks of a new sense of freedom, a release from "the heaviness" and a commitment not to re-offend. Immaculate tells of the great relief she experiences at having buried her husbands bones in their rightful place and that she now feels peace will gradually return to her heart.
Breaking Bows and Arrows is a powerful testament to the importance of genuine healing after painful and bloody conflict so that not only can those directly involved move forward, but also the legacy of hatred will not be passed on to the next generation.
The documentary was the winner of the United Nations Media Peace Award for Best Television for 2002. Its website includes a 1 ½ minute trailer for downloading, memorable pictures, and order information.