Australia’s best-known documentary film-maker, David Bradbury, was prevented by the Tamil Nadu Police from entering Idinthakarai. It is reported that he was stopped at Thomas Mandapam, a few kilometers before Idinthakarai, by the police and taken to Radhapuram Police Station. The detention is likely to have international ramifications given the stature of Bradbury as a film-maker “who will go to any length” to do a film about a cause he believes in. Brief news from: Pushparayan Victoria

profile: david bradbury

David Bradbury has earned an international reputation as a film maker willing to go to extraordinary lengths for a cause, exposing political oppression and environmental vandalism. In 1972, David Bradbury began his career as a radio journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation after graduating from the Australian National University with a BA in Political Science and History. After post graduate studies in broadcast journalism in the United States, he worked as a freelance journalist covering the Spring Revolution in Portugal in 1974 as well as the overthrow of the Greek military junta in Athens that same year and covered the final days of the Shah of Iran.

David Bradbury is one of Australia’s best known and most successful documentary filmmakers. His films have been shown on all the major Australian commercial and public broadcast networks as well as overseas. He has won countless international film festival prizes and been the winner of five AFI awards and two Academy Award nominations (Frontline, which profiled war cameraman Neil Davis, and Chile: Hasta Cuando?, on the brutal military dictatorship of General Pinochet).

While political parties and sections of the media continue to promote nuclear power as an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, Bradbury’s latest film, A Hard Rain, explores ‘the other side’ of the debate – the real issues and grim truth.

Traversing five countries – China, France, UK, Japan and Australia, A Hard Rain exposes the hidden agendas behind the latest push for Australia to go nuclear and presents a compelling—and frightening—argument against allowing this to happen.

Raul the Terrible (2006) is about a modern day Robin Hood, a political activist fighting on behalf of Argentina’s poor. During the l990s, Argentina was bled dry by its corrupt politicians who sold the country’s best public assets to the forces of international capital when the country embraced globalization. Tired of political speeches and left wind rhetoric, Raul Castells leads a grass roots movement of the poor, the unemployed and pensioners who call themselves the ‘picqueteros’ (the picketers) who take direct action to push for social and political justice. In a country where social welfare for the unemployed and poor is virtually non existent, Castell’s picqueteros use imaginative media grabbing actions to non-violently confront the government and big business to force concessions.

Raul the Terrible won Best Direction and Best Editing at the 2006 AFI awards. It was also nominated for Best Documentary.

Blowin in the Wind (2005) is about the US military use of depleted uranium weapons in and since the first Gulf War. It is an expose of what the arms’ manufacturers are doing with nuclear power waste. They are making bullets, bombs and bunker busters from the radioactive left over waste of the nuclear power industry and firing it around the globe.

It was shown theatrically around Australia and created a national controversy. It helped secure for Bradbury the coveted Charles Chauvel award for his contribution to the Australian film industry.

Beyond Paradise is a feature film script Bradbury is currently working on, a drama shot on location in East Timor, a small island to the north of Australia which was invaded by the Indonesian military in l975. The story revolves around the murder of five Australian newsmen at Balibo and the daughter of one of the five journalists who decides to find out how and why her father was killed l6 years earlier. She lands in a hotbed of intrigue and political brutality just two weeks before the infamous Santa Cruz massacre took place in a cemetery in Dili in November l991, in which hundreds of unarmed Timorese were gunned down.

Bradbury’s Fond Memories of Cuba screened on SBS Independent in January 2003. Jim Mitsos is an aging Australian socialist and multi millionaire who believes ‘the dream’ is still alive in Cuba today. He sponsors Bradbury to travel to Cuba to make a film that captures that dream and to bring it back to Australia and the world. But what Bradbury discovers is not quite what Jim expects. Set against a backdrop of fantastic music and musicians that the filmmaker encounters on his journey through Cuba, Bradbury travels across the island on trains, in broken down old cars and sometimes hitchhiking with his nine year old son.

Bradbury’s quest sets up a moral dilemma for the filmmaker, who goes to Cuba on Jim’s money to bring back a positive story of the Revolution but can’t help but see the contradictions. Cubans continue to grow quietly frustrated after more than four decades of Fidel in power and one party rule and this sets the stage for an interesting undercurrent and growing call for change that the filmmaker has documented in Fond Memories of Cuba.

Bradbury’s film, Wamsley’s War, is a profile of controversial conservationist Dr John Wamsley, better known for wearing a feral cat hat on his head to make his point that feral animals are ruining Australia’s native wildlife. Wamsley had grand plans to own one percent of the land space of Australia within the next 20 years and to launch his company, Earth Sanctuaries, on the Australian Stock Exchange to raise millions to realise his dream. But that all comes unstuck when he overcapitalises and has to sell off part of his company. Wamsley’s War screened on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2000.

Jabiluka (1997) tells the story of the Mirarr Aboriginal people’s opposition to another uranium mine on their country in World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. It was pivotal in mobilising public opposition to the mine. The mine was halted.

Loggerheads (1997) is a gutsy cinema verite look at the battle on the frontline of the forests in Northern NSW between loggers and so–called ‘feral’ activists.

The Battle for Byron, which Bradbury produced, filmed and co-directed, is about the alternative community in the Byron Bay Shire coming together to halt inappropriate development in one of the most scenic and biodiverse areas of coastal Australia where Bradbury lives. It tracks the struggle over four years of community attempts to stop developers and Club Med and culminates in the election of a ‘green’ council. The film was shown on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1994 Bradbury made The Last Whale, an expose of Japanese attempts to buy the vote of small countries in order to block a proposal for a sanctuary for whales in the Antarctic. Presented by Olivia Newton-John, it was shown on the CNN network, the Nine Network in Australia and on Discovery, as well as in England, France, South Africa, Holland, the Czech Republic and Mexico.

In 1993 Bradbury directed Nazi Supergrass, an insider’s story of the neo-Nazi movement in Perth, Western Australia. Bradbury befriended the former treasurer and third in command of the Australian Nationalist Movement which for three years had terrorised the Asian and Jewish communities of Perth.

Shoalwater: Up for Grabs (1992) saw Bradbury combine his film making talents with long time university friend and environmental activist Peter Garrett, lead singer in the rock band Midnight Oil. Aired nationally on the Seven Network, it was instrumental in stopping sand mining going ahead in the largest untouched area of wilderness on the east coast of Australia south of Cooktown. The Federal Government and Prime Minister Paul Keating moved to protect the area three weeks after the film was shown.

Polska was shot in Poland in l990 on the eve of the break-up of the Soviet Union. It charts the tragic but inspiring history of Poland from Aushwitz to the building of the Berlin Wall to Solidarity’s coming to power. The film uses the personalised account of 28 year old Polish journalist Beata Ligmann from Gdansk, tracing her experience from student protest days to the present as she watches Soviet troops pack up and leave

South of the Border, produced in 1987, uses the popular music of the grass roots movement of Central America to tell the story of people’s political struggle against dictatorship and entrenched privilege. It was broadcast around the world.

In 1988 Bradbury turned his cameras back home to make State of Shock. This film tells the tragic story of Alwyn Peters, an Aboriginal man in his 20’s who murdered his girlfriend on Weipa South Aboriginal reserve while drunk. It shows how Alwyn was a product of dispossession and alienation from his own culture after a mining company took away his family’s tribal land, uprooting him from his traditional culture and depositing him in poverty and destitution. It was screened on Australian television and on Channel Four in the UK.

Chile: Hasta Cuando? earned Bradbury another Academy Award nomination in 1986. Filmed covertly, the film gives a glimpse of life under Pinochet’s military dictatorship. When it opened in theatres in Sydney and Melbourne it broke all box office records for a political documentary. It scooped the Australian Film Industry awards that year for Best Direction, Best Soundtrack and Best Cinematography as well as first prize at Rio de Janeiro, Cuba and Mannheim Film Festivals.

In 1982 the writer, Graham Greene, a friend and mentor to Bradbury, advised him to go to Nicaragua. The covert war of the CIA against the Sandinistas had started. His film Nicaragua: No Pasaran is an epic piece that uses as its central character Sandinista leader Tomas Borge. It won a special certificate of High Merit at the 1985 Academy Awards and was shown in film festivals and art house cinemas (to packed audiences at Film Forum in NYC) and across the US and Australia.

Public Enemy Number One follows the life of controversial Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, the first western correspondent into Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped. Broadcast on Channel Four in England (but never shown on Australian television because it was too controversial), it shows how Burchett was vilified by the mainstream press and conservative public in Australia for his coverage of “the other side” in the Korean and Vietnam wars. It won the Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1981, the Christopher Statuette at the Columbus Film Festival, Best Documentary at the American Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, an AFI award and was screened in Berlin, London, Edinburgh, American and Cork Film Festivals to critical acclaim.

In 1977 Bradbury smuggled himself into the border area of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya (West Papua) and bought out Super 8 footage, photos and the first ever interview with the Free Papua Movement (OPM) in their guerilla struggle against Indonesia. His first film, Frontline, a portrait of courageous Australian news cameraman Neil Davis, earned Bradbury his first Academy Award nomination. It was shown at the Margaret Mead Film Festival, won first prize at the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals, the coveted Grierson award at the American Film Festival and was screened world wide on PBS, BBC and TF1 in France.