A chronicler of reality on the frontline

He maintains a stiff chin and a brave front to brace up in the face of precarious challenges that his job as a ground-zero level documentary director poses to him. Always standing amidst the epicentre of a disaster, this front-line cameraman has been an eyewitness to many nerve-wracking incidents and crucial developments taking place across the world.
With credentials of a filmmaker who has been nominated twice for the Oscars, Australia’s most well-known and successful docu-filmmaker David Bradbury has earned his fair share of international acclaim, just not for nothing. His unyielding drive and will to go to any extraordinary lengths for a cause he believes in, thereby exposing political oppression and environmental vandalism on his way, make him a crusader of sorts whose repertoire of visual reportage is a valuable archive of study material for many revolutionary movements and earth-shattering events.
The two biggies in the form of nominations from the prestigious Academy Awards stable — Frontline, which profiled the Australian war cameraman Neil Davis and Chile: Hasta Cuando?, on the brutal military dictatorship of General Pinochet — had landed him in the big league of docu-makers.
Frontline is Bradbury’s maiden creative effort as a director, which draws a portrait of cameraman Neil Davis in Vietnam.
Last year, this daredevil David from down under traversed to India, only to shoot an “anti-Koodankulam nuclear power project” film in down South. He headed to Tamil Nadu but was detained by the cops from marching into the village of Idinthakarai, where anti-nuclear agitators, greenpeace activists and local villagers stuck in waist-deep waters at the seaside were holding demonstrations demanding the axing of the nuke power-plant project which they think is harmful to the marine life and the coastline environment. In the process, a slew of criminal cases was allegedly slapped against the “peaceful” protesters, as media reports suggest.
Bradbury, along with his family (wife and a two-year-old son), was reportedly debarred at Thomas Mandapam from making inroads into the seething Idinthakarai and after his interrogation at Radhapuram police station, he was set free. He travelled on tourist visas throughout and finally was able to manage his way out to return to his native place.
Back in his safe lair, he divulges that though he had no hassles in reaching his homeland, yet he has been “stymied from wrapping up” his “film on Idinthakarai due to fund-crunch”. “There is lack of money which I need to pay an editor to work with me,” he says. But somehow he intends to finish off the project as a chronicler who documents the sufferings of domestic inhabitants. “Those who reside in near proximity of the plant-area like hordes of poor people and the close-knit clusters of the fishing community, they have always apprehended about the possible leaks of life-endangering, poisonous radiation from the set-up nuclear structure. So instead of leaving the innocent village folk in the lurch, the Tamil Nadu state administration and the Central government in Delhi should provide them with satisfactory answers. The anticipated fears and questions cropping up in the masses’ minds for their present and future security should by and large be allayed with a reasonable explanation,” he insists.
Incidentally, this early May, the Supreme Court has given its nod for the Koodankulam nuclear plant’s commissioning. Clearing the decks for the controversial nuclear plant project, the top court maintained that it will benefit larger public interest and facilitate sustainable rapid economic growth in the long run.
On the other hand, the expert-panel under the platform of Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament & Peace (CNDP) has always aired out its grave concerns against the Indian Ocean facing a serious threat of contamination from the Koodankulam plant’s nuclear wastes and regular discharges. It has rather expressed its views about converting this joint Indo-Russian endeavour in the Koodankulam town of Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district into an alternative source of energy.
“I filmed for 10 continuous days and was given a very humbling and wonderful insight into the life of this courageous little village. It will definitely form the basis of my next film which could be simply called “Business As Usual” or more enigmatically, “The Ant in the Ear of the Elephant” — an expression used by those revolting against the huge nuclear beast. For, according to the adage, an ant biting in the right place on the ear of an elephant can inflict a lot of pain and trip the animal up,” shares Bradbury, who also imparted a “masterclass” lecture at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television institute in Kolkata on his last visit to the city.
One who openly promulgates to enjoy challenges with a thirst for wild adventure and treads on the slippery grounds, wherein authority and corrupt governance block a truth-seeker’s path and dissuade him/her to record the reality on camera, is often being pushed to the edge of vulnerability himself. “It’s quite spine-shivering though,” he agrees. “Sometimes, even dangerous to one’s life. But I don’t dash to a place-of-peril only to pump in an adrenaline rush or to get that goosebumps simply for the heck of it. Rather I go there to inform and enlighten my fellow Australian compatriots and the local community about what’s really going on, thus exposing the hidden agendas operating insidiously. If taking the risks involved — physical, psychological and financial — result only in a pat on the back for the courage it takes, that’s not sufficient for me. I want my community or my countrymen to confront and combat the plaguing crisis and take necessary action with the enormous stock of information I bring back in my shooting equipment,” he asserts.
Other communities who entrust him to film their stories of trauma, pain, anguish and dark secrets do so believing that he can help them fight out their hardships. “That’s the punch line for me. You have to assemble enough material of data, newsy feed and footage to run with it, and find your ways of supporting people and bring it to the notice of the world and those who can take up their cause to make a difference. On many occasions, a brave community is gagged for venting out their grievances and put through some testing times with outrageous and anti-democratic steps. Even back home in Australia, people have non-violently agitated against the spoiling of their ancient environment by opposing the coal seam gas fracking, occurring in plenty. To cause a stir against something that looks pernicious to common interest is in a way exercising one’s democratic, constitutional right,” he opines.

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