'Shadow World' - Investigating the Huge Corruption of the Billion-Dollar Global Arms Trade

Need a new case against free trade? We've got it. The often overlooked economics of the global arms trade punish civilians unequivocally, which is why a new documentary titled Shadow World is so important.

The website for the film explains that, "The film unravels a number of the world’s largest and most corrupt arms deals through those involved in perpetrating and investigating them. It illustrates why this trade accounts for almost 40 percent of all corruption in global trade, and how it operates in a parallel legal universe, in which the national security elite who drive it are seldom prosecuted for their often illegal actions." 

Told in a series of present-day interviews intercut with archival footage, Shadow World dives deep into the last century of war, and questions why a war on terror, or rather a war on war drives us toward a dangerous perpetuity. 

The film begins with President Obama's words during his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009: “Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict—filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other."

"In working out the story with Andrew, I came to realize that corruption is not a dirty little side effect of the arms trade, but in fact its defining factor," explained artist/filmmaker Johan Grimonprez (who also wrote and directed the film dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y) regarding Corruption Watch-U.K. founder Andrew Feinstein. The film is partly based on Feinstein's book The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, published in 2011.

"In reality, Shadow World is not about some small-time illegal arms dealers, but about big corporations involving players at the highest levels of government. The defense industry is supposed to bolster security, but instead gives us exactly the opposite: a more dangerous world. Politicians who are supposed to represent our hopes and dreams sell us fear and nightmares in the name of those very corporations who lobby for war. The business of war manipulates the media to cultivate an industry of fear, which in turn has created a reality defined by violence," Feinstein confirms in the press release for the film.

Feinstein grew up in South Africa, and became involved with Nelson Mandela and his ANC in the mid-1990s.

“Working for Mandela was a privilege and an honor,” Feinstein continues. “Sadly, driven by his successor, the ANC decided to spend $10 billion on weapons that we didn’t need and barely use. $300 million of bribes were paid, including to senior ANC and government leaders and officials. I tried to investigate the deal in my role as the ANC’s ranking member of the main financial oversight committee. The party demanded that I halt the investigation, forcing me to choose between my party and the oath I had taken to uphold the constitution. I chose to try and continue the investigation in the national interest, and was forced out of Parliament.”

The film features interviews with Helen Garlick, prosecutor of the BAE Systems case, U.K. Serious Fraud Office; Riccardo Privitera, arms & equipment dealer, Talisman Europe Ltd. (dissolved); Pierre Sprey, co-designer of the F-16 fighter aircraft, Former Defense Analyst, Pentagon; Jeremy Scahill, investigative journalist and author of Dirty Wars; Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel, Fmr. Chief of Staff to U.S. Sec. of State Colin Powell; Franklin C. Spinney, Fmr. Military Analyst Pentagon; and Claire Short, British Minister for International Development (1997-2003) among others.

Watch the trailer below:


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