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Death is in the field: a new animated documentary by Chappatte

07-04-2011 News Release 11/79

Geneva (ICRC) – The renowned editorial cartoonist Patrick Chappatte has teamed up with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to create a new animated documentary on the impact of cluster munitions in Lebanon.

Death is in the field will be premiered at the Visions du Réel film festival in the Swiss city of Nyon on the evening of 8 April.

Almost five years after the war between Israel and Lebanon, which saw millions of bomblets dropped on Lebanese territory, the decontamination of these deadly weapons continues. Out of a total of around 55 contaminated square kilometres, almost 37 have been cleared so far. It's estimated that it will take another two to three years to clear the remaining area of roughly 18 square kilometres. In the meantime, these munitions are likely to keep on killing and maiming. Since the 2006 war, 354 people have been injured and 49 killed, including children and teenagers, by these munitions.

In 2009, Chappatte, who draws political cartoons for leading international and Swiss newspapers, traveled to Lebanon to see for himself how cluster munitions continue to threaten people's lives and livelihoods. He's now turned his comic-book report, Death in the Fields, into an 11-minute animated depiction that combines illustrations, voices and movement to form an innovative style of documentary.

"More and more, we're seeing drawings and animations being used to tell difficult stories from front-line environments," said the head of the ICRC's production team, Jean Milligan David, who helped produce the documentary. "Chappatte's way of war reporting enables us to view conflicts through a fresh lens … one that allows the victims of violence to talk about their experiences in their own words. Yet what we see flows from Chappatte's imagination and his unique point of view. For the ICRC, this means of story telling is very compelling because it offers a new perspective on issues – like unexploded submunitions and the damage they do – that can be hard to get a handle on."

Chappatte said the process of creating the documentary was both a personal and professional endeavour. "I have a Swiss father and a Lebanese mother, so I wanted to better understand the problems that the people of Lebanon are still facing, long after the fighting stopped," he said. "I also wanted to use my craft as a cartoonist, my experience as a journalist and my sense of satire to create a new kind of prism through which to view forgotten conflicts and a new technique for revealing the humanity behind the story."

Lebanon has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which entered into force in 2010 and establishes rules to ensure that these weapons are no longer used and that the existing humanitarian problems associated with them are addressed. Lebanon is also expected to host an international meeting of States Party to the Convention in September.

The Death in the Fields documentary, which was originally published as an illustrated story in Le Temps newspaper in French, was jointly produced by the ICRC, Point Prod (http://www.pointprod.ch) and Radio Télévision Suisse (http://www.rtsentreprise.ch).

For further information or to line up an interview with Patrick Chappatte, please contact:
Anna Nelson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 3264

See a three-minute "making-of" video featuring comments by Chappatte and excerpts from his documentary.

The full, 11-minute animated documentary will be available on icrc.org in English and French as of 18 April 2011.

Please contact Vanja Baumberger (e-mail) if you would like a copy of the full-length documentary.