Frontline World

About the Series


TITLE:  From the Producers of FRONTLINE

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight on FRONTLINE/World, four Stories from a Small Planet.

(scenic, Orlando walking, talking to crying people)

ANNOUNCER: In Aceh, Indonesia, Orlando De Guzman returns to the scene of a

“Their bodies were dumped along this murky water here…”

(Orlando with General)

...and confronts the General villagers say is responsible...

Orlando de Guzman: [subtitle] There were 7 teenagers, aged 11 to 20.
They were shot to death.

(Faroe island scenics)

ANNOUNCER: And in the far-off Faroe Islands,

(whale hunter on his boat; or boats in foreground, whales in distance)

...the descendants of Vikings have hunted pilot whales for a thousand years...

(people on beach watching hunt)

Eivor: (blonde singer) To be in a whale hunt, it's amazing.

ANNOUNCER: But islanders face an unexpected threat.


ANNOUNCER: Then in Tanzania, scientists train rats to sniff out landmines.

Bart: "They save human lives, and  they are heroes actually." (VO over pics of trainer in field holding rat)

ANNOUNCER: Finally, in Kuwait, move over Batman, here come the Islamic superheroes...the most popular comic book in the Arab world.


SHOW TITLE:  FRONTLINE/World: Stories from a Small Planet



ANNOUNCER:  Frontline/World is made possible by Shell, supporting freedom of the press and the independent journalists who tell the stories of our times.



ANNOUNCER: And by the Skoll Foundation…

ANNOUNCER: And by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and by the Independent Television Service.


(Opening graphics)

Indonesia: After the Wave


The outside world did not know much about Aceh, Indonesia, until the Great Indian Ocean tsunami struck here three years ago.  This was ground zero.

I’ve been reporting from this area for the past 5 years as a radio journalist and I’ve seen what life was like here before that day in December.

Now, it’s a very different place. Billions of dollars of international aid has brought new prosperity here. The UN’s vehicles cruise the streets and everywhere, someone is building something new. The international aid combined with revenues from Aceh’s ample natural gas reserves are helping the province get back on its feet.

But I didn’t come to Aceh to look at the aftermath of the tsunami.

I'm returning to see how Aceh is recovering from its other tragedy. This one was man made. 

The Aceh I remember was a terrifying place.
In 2003, I arrived here in the middle of a brutal civil war between the military and the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM.

For years, government soldiers routinely terrorized civilians. One day, I happened upon this military patrol. They were just leaving the village of Matamamplam. They told me they'd been in a gunfight with rebels earlier in the morning. One of them said “You came too late. We just killed some rats over there.”

As the villagers buried their dead, I filed this radio report.

Orlando de Guzman BBC radio report: We’re now at the cemetery. All the bodies of the victims are being gathered here and the whole village is gathering. The villagers say, that the 7 young men, were rounded up, by the Indonesian army, and shot.”

The military’s official investigation concluded the boys were anti-government GAM rebels but local villagers say they were not. Suryani Ibrahim is a rice farmer in Matamamplam and she was one of the villagers who retrieved the bodies for burial. 

She took me to the site of the killings.         

Orlando de Guzman: She says she can remember everything - it’s like she’s looking at it right now. She can remember what happened that day when she saw all the bodies here. She said that some of the young men were asked to run and when they ran, that’s when they were shot. Some of them were shot at close range. So, their bodies were dumped along this murky water here.

I asked her how people still feel about the killings.

Suryani Ibrahim: [subtitles] Everyone is outraged, how could they not be? Our very own country trampling us like that. Who would not be outraged? They were so innocent. The soldiers didn’t distinguish between civilians and rebels. The guilty or the innocent, it’s all the same to them.

I went to talk to the mother and father of one of the victims. 

Their son, Nasrullah, was 18 years old.  While tending to the family’s fishponds, they told me, Nasrullah was dragged to the rice fields.

Mother: [subtitles] This is my son.
Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles] Which one?
Mother: [subtitles] The one that’s bleeding on his head, this bone was broken because he was beaten.
Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles]  They beat him first?
Mother: [subtitles] Yes, they beat him first. He was screaming and crying “Mama, they’re beating me, help me…” I can’t think about it. It’s too sad.

Another victim was just 14 years old. His father says he’d just come home from school.

Father: [subtitles] They took him outside. I thought it was ok. He was only a little boy. The soldier said he was GAM.   He was only a little boy.  He was not GAM.
Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles] Did you see the solders [kill] your son?
Father: [subtitles]  I didn’t see it. I didn’t go outside because I was very afraid. One soldier took him to the field, shot him and then laid him under the sun.  He was hung on the fence.  He was only a little boy.
Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles] You saw your son hung on the fence?
Father: [subtitles] Every time I think about my son, I feel weak.  He was not supposed to shoot my son, he was still very young.

After the massacre in Matamamplam, and my BBC report which implicated the military, the Indonesian government closed Aceh to foreigners.

The fighting continued and there seemed to be no hope for peace.  Then in December 2004 came the tsunami. 170,000 Acehnese were killed.

The staggering death toll and the arrival of foreign aid workers led the two weary armies to reach a peace agreement.

Today, the military denies killing innocent civilians. I went to see General Bambang Darmono.

Orlando de Guzman: Hello, nice to meet you finally.
General Darmono: Nice to meet you, too. How are you?
Orlando de Guzman: I’m very well. How are you?

In 2003, Darmono was in charge of military operations in Aceh and has since been promoted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Indonesia’s Armed Forces. I asked him about the massacre I’d come upon.

Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles] Do you still remember May 21, 2003? There were 7 teenagers, aged 11 to 20. They were shot to death. Do you remember that?
General Darmono: [subtitles]  I don’t know this specific case.

I showed him the results of the military’s own investigation. In it, Darmono insists the young men were GAM spies, and that his troops came under fire from the rebels.

Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles] You were quoted.
General Darmono: [subtitles] Yes, now I remember. The incident happened as written here.
Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles]  So, the 7 kids were not lined up and shot?
General Darmono: [subtitles] No.  There was no lining up, not at all. The military never lined people up, or killed them that way.  And that’s not the way it happened.
Orlando de Guzman: [subtitles] But there are some eye-witnesses who saw it.
General Darmono: But when we took those witnesses to the military command center to let them speak their minds before some journalists, they didn’t say anything.

General Darmono has his own version of what happened but I wanted to know how thousands of Acehnese were dealing with their losses. I had heard victims were now gathering regularly to discuss what to do.

Rukaiyah Yunus: [subtitles] This is the moment for us to begin talking about all this. You don't need to be afraid, because we are all victims here.

These meetings are coordinated by human rights workers like Rukaiyah Yunus. She lost 50 relatives to the tsunami but she says healing from the war has been much harder.

Rukaiyah Yunus: [subtitles] The tsunami was a natural disaster and we must accept it because it came from nature, and according to Islam it was sent by Allah.  But war is caused by people. The death of a person in war is not natural, not normal. The trauma from the tsunami is temporary and easy to accept, but the conflict is different.

I visited her at her home where she collects ID photos and testimonies of victims.

Rukaiyah Yunus: [subtitles] Her husband was kidnapped. Hers was kidnapped. And hers was kidnapped. They haven’t found them. Her husband got shot, died and they found his body.

Rukaiyah’s own brother was killed by the military as he was leaving the house.

Rukaiyah Yunus: [subtitles] I saw the death of my brother as unnatural. That’s why I want to fight this case legally because I feel that all this time with this peace we have now, why don’t we use it to find a justice for all the victims in Aceh?

After the tsunami, Rukaiyah was hopeful. GAM had agreed to give up its guns and the military had pulled out of Aceh.  In December 2006, Aceh had its first free elections. The people chose a former GAM commander, Irwandi Yusuf, that’s him on the left, as their governor.

Orlando de Guzman: Governor Irwandi, nice to meet you.

I met him as he was leaving his house for a session in the local parliament.  Later that day, he gave me a personal tour.

Orlando de Guzman: When you drive around Aceh today, what changes do you see here?
Governor Irwandi:  Well, if you compare pre and post tsunami, yes, there is change. Change in everything. Physical development. The presence of international people. It put Aceh in the spotlight.

Irwandi never dreamed he’d be in this position. He was trained as a farm veterinarian at Oregon State University.

Orlando de Guzman: Where are we going?
Governor Irwandi: Police.

This was not the first time our paths had crossed.  Back in 2003, GAM rebels sprayed my car with bullets. I frantically sent text messages to Irwandi who was GAM’s intelligence chief at that time, asking him to stop the shooting. But at that moment, he was in military custody and the soldiers read the texts which confirmed Irwandi as a GAM commander. I wonder if in fearing for my own life, I had inadvertently compromised his.

Orlando de Guzman: You experienced torture in this building?
Orlando de Guzman: You experienced torture in this building?
Governor Irwandi: [subtitles] Yes, in this building, in that room, in that interrogation room.

The governor seemed more interested in reading the day’s news than in answering my questions about the past.

Orlando de Guzman: Do you care to tell me what happened?
Governor Irwandi: [subtitles] What happened? Interrogation. It’s normal here during the war.
Orlando de Guzman: What did they do to you?
Governor Irwandi: [subtitles] Whatever they like. Kicking, beating, logging.  I mean, when I say logging, it doesn't mean cutting the log but beating with the log. 
Orlando de Guzman: You can laugh about these experiences.  Is that because you're governor now?
Governor Irwandi: [subtitles] No. It is nothing to avenge about.  I take it as the consequence of struggle. I don't take it personally.

It was while in prison in December of 2004 that Irwandi heard the rumbling sound of the tsunami.   As the water rushed in, he punched a hole through the weakened roof and escaped. Two years later, he would become the governor.

Orlando de Guzman: A lot of people have high hopes that you will be able to bring certain people to justice because they believe that you are a victim of torture as well and maybe because of your experience, you'll be able to help them.
Governor Irwandi: [subtitles] Well, of course I know how to do that. There is no rush. Orlando de Guzman: Now isn't a good time?
Governor Irwandi: [subtitles] It’s like, you know, if you want to catch the bird on the tree?  If you shake the tree too early, then you won’t get the bird. Climb it slowly.

But some victims’ groups are calling for more aggressive action.

Speech: [subtitles] A dark history occurred in Aceh which caused many tears…

On their own, victims of the conflict are now pushing forward on a plan to investigate and try the Indonesian military for human rights abuses.

Speech: [subtitles] The victims of human rights violations are being left behind. What have we received so far? Nothing more than lip service and empty promises from this newly formed government.

I realized these victims were not Governor Irwandi’s priority.
His focus is on the economy and day after day, his office is teeming with visiting businessmen from all over the world. This Japanese investor wants to build a railway that crisscrosses the entire province.

Businessman: We estimate by the way that the first phase of the port will be 500 million dollars.

And this industrialist from North Carolina wants to build a Singapore-style port on the northern tip of Aceh.

Orlando de Guzman: Do you think that healing Aceh from years of conflict can be done only by improving the economy?  You seem to focus a lot on the economy at this point.

Governor Irwandi: [subtitles] First, let’s deal with the economy.  Because this is very, very basic.  People couldn't think straight if they are hungry. People tend to be less patient than they should be. The government’s not very stable.  If your first action is a human rights trial, those that are not happy with this will try to sabotage the boat.

There’s lingering distrust between Irwandi and the military but today, Irwandi practices shooting alongside his former enemies.

For the time being, Irwandi’s reluctance to confront the military pleases General Darmono who thinks no one’s hands are clean when it comes to unearthing the past.

General Bambang Darmono: [subtitles] Everyone violated human rights law, not just the military, the police, the government, and GAM also committed human rights violations. In Aceh, people’s heads were chopped, minced and buried everywhere. GAM did that, they’re all violations of human rights.  Do we want to keep talking about that? If we want to have peace, we have to bury everything.

As I listened to the general, I was amazed that he now actually takes credit for the peace in Aceh. He even cites the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement as his model.

General Bambang Darmono: [subtitles] Did Tiananmen violate human rights?  Yes.  Did the violation bear bigger fruit for the progress of the people?  Yes. I don’t like killing people but when we see something like [Tiananmen]. Probably, if it never happened, China wouldn’t be as advanced as they are.  They wouldn’t be as developed. It’s amazing to see the Chinese going to outer space. 

In Aceh, Darmono’s ideas seem dangerously out of touch.

I’m left remembering what Suryani Ibrahim told me in the rice fields of Matamamplam…that until there is justice, there can be no real peace.

Suryani Ibrahim: [subtitles] We’ve lost all hope. Where is this independence? Those officials, they already have their independence. But, us poor, where is our freedom? We still want to rebel and fight for our freedom. The goal of the Acehnese people is independence.

The tsunami may have submerged Aceh’s brutal past but many now fear another great wave of violence is rising once again.

Bumper #1:

Later tonight, hero rats in Africa and superhero cartoons in Kuwait...

But first, an old and controversial tradition in the north Atlantic.



(shots of Tindholmer bay with house)
(Sandovagar church, and coastal cave)

Centuries ago vikings landed on the Faroe Islands, a few hundred miles southeast of Iceland.

(Gasadalur, small fishing boat)

They began a way of life dependent on the sea.

(MS Klaksvik waterfront)

They ate what the ocean provided, including whales.
(Boat leaving harbor)

Their descendents, the Faroese, still do.

(Olavur driving boat.  CU Olavur driving boat)

Olavur Sjurdaberg learned to hunt whales when he was a boy.

(MS Cliff crevice.  Fishermen on small boat, seagulls flocking.  CU Olavur.)

Olavur: [subtitle]   It’s a part of our diet, of our food, it is also a big part of our social life here in the Faroes.  And it is a part of our old tradition, our culture from former days.

(Water trails and back of boat)

The Faroese hunt Pilot Whales, which appear off the islands in large pods.

(CU Olavur looks thru viewfinder. Seabirds fly off water. Olavur stands on deck, looks around.)

It’s summertime now—the height of whaling season—and Olavur is eager for the whales to come.

(Man on boat pan to Olavur talking to him.)

But nobody had seen any yet.

(Ext. WS Olavur’s home.  MS windows.)

(Olavur pointing to items on cutting board.)

Nat Sot: [subtitles]  This is the blubber.  This is a thin slice of this piece here. And this is a thin slice of this here whale meat.

(Olavur puts whale slice into mouth, chewing.)

Nat Sot: [subtitles] Tasty and good.

(Cutting slices of whale meat.)

Olavur: [subtitle]   It taste of this meat, is coming from the sea, it tastes a little bit of fat (smacks lips), but for us who are grown up with this taste, it is a good taste.

(Olavur frying whale steaks.)

(Serene eating w/Sjurdabergs.  MS grandson eating. Toddler on Janna’s lap.) 

I tried the whale steak he cooked for his grandchildren—it tasted like liver.  For some Faroese, whale is almost a third of their protein.

But Olavur says, it’s more than food.

(CU older grandson. CU Olavur eating.)

Olavur: [subtitle]   We’re proud that we’re living here in the Faroes, and we’re proud of that we can still continue as we have lived with our culture for centuries now.

(Gasadalur, waterfall, stone woman, sheep.)

There are fewer than 50,000 Faroese, scattered across 18 islands.  Even the young become deeply involved in the whaling culture.

(WS Gota.  Eivor walking shot)

In the town of Gota, I met a young singer named Eivor.  She told me what happens when the whales are found.

Eivor:  There’s not one person at home. Everyone goes down. Even children run out to the ocean to catch them. It’s a very passionate thing, a very strong thing. To be in a whale hunt, it’s it’s amazing.

(WS boats in semi-circle)

One afternoon, I saw it for myself. 

When whales are spotted offshore, the call goes out and a dozen or so boats set out to herd them into a bay.

(MS whales diving thru water surrounded by boats.)

(CU mother and child point out to sea.)

(CU whales diving.)

Men wait onshore for the boats to chase the whales onto the beach.

(Man giving instructions.) 

(Olavur w/men showing off knives.)

(MWS boats herding whales, men run toward shoreline.)

(Men carrying rope run past.   Whales splash around in huge pile.  Tail splash.)

(Men pull whale to shore.)

They use a rope and blunt hook to drag the whales closer to shore.

(Men killing, carnage, bloody water.)

And kill them by cutting the main artery to the brain….they say it’s a fast and precise method with only one cut.  But it is, of course, bloody.

(WS Men pushing whales to boat.)

(WS of dead whales lined up in bloody water.)

The entire hunt is over in about 20 minutes.

(PAN Newspaper photo of whale hunt.)
(Music cue – single note.)

When pictures of the hunt first appeared in the media in the 1980s, the outside world was horrified.

(Kate reading letters, CU letter)

Kate: I have just seen on television your murderous killing of the whales, I and all my workmates agree that you’re just shit.  I am a grown man and I cried to see your inhuman acts.  I would love to stick one of those hooks in your head and hear you scream the way the whales did.  Signed a normally, quiet, non-violent Englishman.

(WS Kate at desk.)

Kate Sanderson works for the Faroese government.  It’s her job to respond to anti-whaling protests. 

Kate: It started with quite a bang, in the beginning, in the mid-80s and the Faroes had never experienced anything quite like this. When these campaigns were all in their heydey we were receiving thousands of these kinds of postcards, a week.

(Kate arranges letters on desk)

Kate: And the feeling was that the Faroes were under attack.  That it was us against them.

(WS Gota bay, pan to bloody beach.)

The Faroese say they’ve been hunting the whale for nearly a thousand years.  They have written records dating back to medieval times.  But in the outside world, attitudes have changed. 

Kate: Obviously, I think people are also very aware of the effect it can have on foreigners who haven’t seen this kind of thing before.

(MS Man splashes into water to tie up whales)

Kate:  There’s a very high awareness of its dramatic nature and people understand that people from other places can react very strongly when they see it, if it’s not properly explained to them what’s going on.

(Crane lifts whales on to quay.  MS crane operator.)

132 Pilot Whales were killed in the hunt this day.

(Foremen measuring a whale. CU measuring tape. Older man taking notes: nat sot lalala.)

The Faroese say they stop hunting when they’ve caught as much as they can eat—about 1,000 whales in a year.

(CU Cutting numeral into whale fin.  WS man watering whales, kids play in foreground.)


For some people outside the Faroes, whales are seen as a special kind of wildlife—one that should be protected unconditionally.

(MS fin being watered.  MS whale tails watered..)

But the Faroese say the Pilot Whales are not endangered…that they’re a resource and that any animal slaughter is bloody.

Eivor: Many people are angry about the Faroe Islands killing the whales and all that. But um, but to me, it’s important for the culture of the Faroe Islands and the people here, they don’t kill the whales for fun or anything. Because it has saved many people here when the times have been difficult and people have been eating the whales.

(WS wave crash on Gota bay.)

(WS pan from light to assembled crowd.)

(CU sheriff w/bullhorn.)

By nightfall, hundreds of people from the surrounding villages have arrived at the docks.  The sheriff is about to announce how much whale each family will get.

(Sheriff nat sot: lalala)

(WS crowd, laughs.)

(Bucket of meat pan to man cutting.)

(MS Olavur discussing list w/men.)

Olavur is here with neighbors from his village.

(MS PAN Olavur to whale.  CU cutting meat.)

This is the whale they will share.

Each man will take home about 100 lbs of meat and blubber tonight.

(People carting off whale meat in wheelbarrows.)

(Music: Flis – Vettur #9)

(Ws pointy cliff w/puffins.  WS flock of puffins, some flying.  MS puffins face the wind.  MS ocean waves on rock.  WS triple waterfall and cars). 

(Anna Rubeksen carrying dishes to table. Eliesar pouring water.)

Anna: [subtitle]  To go out to dinner and eat in a restaurant is completely new for us. We didn’t do that when I was a child, nor as a young woman.

(CU Anna at the sink.  CU cutting rullupylsa.)

Anna Rubeksen has been eating whale since she was a small girl.

Anna: [subtitle]  We ate whale often, like once a week.

(MS Rachnild getting plate from cupboard. CU Boiling water.  CU Anna.)  

When Anna became pregnant with her daughter Rachnild, she received a letter from a local doctor.  He wanted her to participate in a new study. 

(WS family eating lunch.)

Anna: [subtitle]  They took samples from her when she was a newborn at the hospital, from my hair and umbilical cord and a blood sample from her…

(Pal at the freezer.)

Scientists had discovered that Pilot Whales are contaminated with methylmercury.  Pal Weihe, a Faroese Doctor, worried that his people had been harmed.

Weihe:             We knew from old times that mercury is a toxic substance. There’s no doubt about that.

(MS pan Weihe and SF in office.  CU Weihe talking in office.)

It was well-known that mercury in high doses could cause severe brain damage, there’s not enough mercury in whale meat for that, but what happens at smaller doses over a long period of time?

(Weihe coming down stairs.)

Weihe, with his colleague, Philippe Granjean, from the Harvard School of Public Health, began a study.

(WS Mothers at clinic w/children.  CU baby in cradle.  CUs mom w/ little boy.  CU Marianna pan to Mom.)

He asked every pregnant woman in the Faroes to provide hair and blood samples, and to enroll her child in a long term study of his or her development. 

That was 20 years ago.

Weihe:              I had hoped of course, that we would find nothing. 

(MS Mari Ann checking in mother and little boy.  MS pan mother to little boy rubbing eyes.)

Today Weihe has tested nearly 2,000 Faroese children.

(CU Marianna having electrodes put on her forehead.   MS Marianna from behind, having electrodes applied to her ear.)


He found that chronic low-level mercury exposure affects a baby’s brain, causing small but permanent deficits in development…

(CU Torunn.  CU Torunn doing peg test pan to face.  CU little girl’s face, pan down to arm w/blood pressure band.)


A shortened attention span, delays in language ability, a decrease in motor speed.  He even found small changes in how the brain regulates the heart. 

(WS exterior of mercury clinic – dusk.  MS interior window of clinic w/ trees – dusk.)

(Mari Ann takes boy’s hair sample.  Aarne testing boy w/blocks.)

Weihe: We did not expect in the Faroes, in the low exposure areas, to see any signs of mercury poisoning, like cerebral palsy for example. What we were going after was, if there were subtle effects on the neurodevelopment, of the mental ability. Language, reaction time, things like that.

(Sveinur on examining table.   MS mom watching.  MS Sveinur getting tooth exam.)

The study established a benchmark for the low-end of mercury toxicity—one of the first to identify the amount which begins to affect a developing child.

(LS children running on beach.)

Although some scientists dispute Dr. Weihe’s Research, its impact has been global.

(XWS boat entering bay.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used Weihe’s results to issue guidelines on what mercury levels in fish are safe to eat.  Especially for pregnant women.
(WS misty coast of mykines w/sheep.  WS mykines peninsula w/flying birds.  CU puffin.)

The doctor was born here, on the island of Vagur.  His father was the town harbormaster.

(CU ocean waves against rocks.  CU window of house.) 

He says he understands the importance of whales to the Faroese, better than any outsider could.

(MS Weihe at desk, shuffling papers.)

Weihe: Whaling tradition has been so central in Faroese culture….

(MS Weihe on deck w/SF.)

Weihe:  The critical voices I have heard, they are not more than I expected.

(MS Klaksvik harbor – houses and boats.  MCU Olavur’s corner window, exterior.)

He recommended that women cut back on whale meat and give up blubber altogether.  It was a message many people didn’t want to hear.

Olavur: [subtitle] There were many thoughts running through my head when I heard it the first time. Should I believe it, should I not believe it, should I forget it, and what, what to do?

(Bobcat carrying whale.   Olavur’s grandson eating whale.)
Kate: We are putting ourselves in a position where we may end up seeing a traditional food, a local food stigmatized.  And do we want to create a situation where that food is then rejected completely?

(MS man holding baby watches crane lower whale.  Crowd shot: blonde kids.  CU little boys hands play w/fin.)

The Pilot Whale has a long lifespan and ranges far from the Faroes.  It’s a carnivore, and with the fish it eats it accumulates many pollutants including PCBs as well as methylmercury.

(WS Gota harbor boats.  MS boat sterns.)

For now, plenty of Faroese families continue to eat whale meat…

(CU Ingibjorg whispering w/Rannva. CU Ingibjorg.)

But some younger mothers like Ingibjorg Berg aren’t willing to take the risk.

Ingibjorg: When I was pregnant, I didn’t eat it at all. And when I was breast-giving, I didn’t eat it at all. And I’m very concerned about my girls eating too much of it.

(Rannva playing with her friends. Ingibjørg looking on.)

Her daughter, Rannva, is part of a new generation that does not eat grind or whale meat, on a daily basis.

(Rannva & friends play w/barbies.)

Ingibjorg: In the long run it could, it could mean that, if the young women do not eat grind, and usually the women decide what to eat for dinner, the children do not eat grind, when they grow up they will not, they are not used to grind.  I think we could for some generation, we could see that the Faroese people do not, maybe not at all eat grind.

(CU Rannva coloring. CU another little girl.  MS 3 little girls coloring w/Ingibjorg in bckgrnd.)


Weihe:  We have identified a toxic effect on our children.  We have been forced to change some dear dietary habits.  Which has been an important part of our, our Faroese identity.

 (Cloud moving over mtn silhouette.  WS Gasadalur valley w/clouds. Nat sot; Wind blowing.)

The Faroese identity has been bound up in their isolation, but now even this pristine environment seems vulnerable to pollutants from far away.

Olavur: [subtitle] Today I must say I believe much of the things that Pal Weihe has done in his research.

(MS Olavur from behind, walking on grind beach.)

Olavur: [subtitle]  Pal Weihe tells us and tells the world that the whales are polluted. But where are all this pollution coming from?

(CU Olavur’s grandson on the beach.  CU Janna, Olavur’s daughter on the beach.)

Olavur: [subtitle]  The only thing we can do is first to live with it as it is, and try to tell countries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, that here is something wrong in the system. 

(Beginning of Eivor lullaby. MS Eivor singing)

New knowledge has come here, born out of their old and controversial tradition.
And in the death of the whales, a warning to the world.

(Ending of Eivor lullaby.)

(MS house in front of Tindholmer.  WS two men in hayfield.  MS lake w/pier and boat.)


Bumper #2

Coming up, a comic book presents a new image of Islam...
But next, how a boyhood passion led to an ingenious breakthrough.

Tanzania: HERO RATS


(map graphic zoom out)

(FLW logo)

(music up)

(scenes from Tanzania)


Here in the southern highlands of Tanzania, an intriguing new research project is underway. 

Bart: Yeah he’s really about opening his eyes, just small splits, so this is how it starts. 

Bart Weetjens runs this unique laboratory.

Bart: But if you see how the whiskers already move, like his, already pretty high frequency in there in movement so it’s already perceiving.

These baby rats already have an incredible sense of smell.  In Bart’s lab they’re being trained for a new and critical task that may save many human lives.

It all started when Bart was a boy in Belgium.

(Bart under picture entering door)

Bart: I had a passion for rodents. One day I was given a hamster, and I was so fond of this hamster that I gave it another hamster as a playmate, and soon I had a lot of hamsters.  I’ve always felt a very strong bonding with rodents, don’t ask me why but it’s just like that…

Bart’s rats are not your average gutter rat.  This is the African Giant Pouched Rat.  It lives up to eight years in captivity, is sociable, and easy to train.

And this is just what Bart and his team have been doing in Tanzania for the last seven years:  training rats to help solve one of Africa’s deadliest problems by sniffing out landmines.

 (Rat sniffing at glass)

(Explosion of landmine)

Every hour, somewhere in the world, a person is maimed or killed by a landmine.


And there are more mines in Africa than anywhere else.

(African de-miner in action)

But finding and removing landmines can be expensive and extremely dangerous.  And that’s where Bart’s rats come in.

 (Back in lab)

The principle here is simple—Bart uses the Pavlovian method.  When a rat stops to sniff an explosive scent, the trainer signals with a loud click.

(We hear click sound)

And rewards the rat with food.

(Rat walking down metal corridor)

After months of training, they find the explosives with lightning speed.  They indicate the spot by scratching.

(Rats Broll.  Clicker training.  Trainer filling out progress sheet)

The progress of each rat is carefully documented.  And over 300 rats are being trained here.  Each with its own personality and its own name.

Bart: You will find Mozambican names, you will find Swahili names Utombi, Ufama, there is a Hutu and Tutsi together peacefully in one cage.

(Abdullah and Alexis)

The training begins at dawn.  They’re nocturnal, so they wear sunscreen to protect their sensitive ears.

(Man carrying rats in plastic out to the truck….see something that says hero rat)

(Lex on open pick-up truck)

We head down the road to a training field run by the “Hero Rat” program.

(Hero Rat door shuts.  Trainer burying tea egg.  Tea egg foreground, dirt.  Ararat cage in Abdullah’s hand, walking, Arrarat cage ground, low angle)

Here trainers have created a hazardous treasure hunt, burying landmines and canisters of TNT.

(Hand on landmine, brushes it)

All of the detonators have been removed, but the explosive material is still inside.
 (Trainer putting on rat harness)

Strapped into a harness, the rats run on a cord between two trainers.

Bart: Whenever they trace an explosive scent, you may see they become a bit more nervous, they start looking where the highest concentration is and that’s what they will scratch as an indication.

Alexis: So that sort of scratching indicates like okay I’ve found something? 

Bart: Yes.

Dogs have traditionally been used to sniff out landmines, but Bart realized that rats are less likely to set off a mine and less susceptible to tropical disease. And once trained, rats work obediently work with humans.

Alexis: Do you know when you’ve got a good one?

Abdullah: [subtitle] Yes, I got a good one, yeah, name is Ararat.

Alexis: Ararat?

Abdullah: [subtitle]  Yes.  That rat got two times jackpot.

Bart:  Ararat is a star.  He worked through the whole curriculum without any error.  We’re sure Ararat has a bright future in the mine field.

(Bart with cage.  Ararat writing.  Loading car)

After nearly a year in training, Bart is sending Ararat and seven others on their first mission.

(Dip to black as truck drives off)

Mozambique—on the east coast of Africa.  A beautiful country with a terrible history of war.

 (Alexis driving, looking out the window)

They’re slowly rebuilding.  But thirty years of conflict continues to take its toll here.  Since the end of the civil war, thousands of Mozambicans have been killed or injured by unexploded landmines.

Ramos: [subtitle] We woke up in the morning at about 7, and I got on a farm tractor.

(Ramos on camera)

Ramos: [subtitle] That tractor ran over a mine, it was an anti-tank mine, it was
destroyed. There were thirteen of us, but I was the only one who survived. The other ones died.

(Ramos walking up stairs)

Ramos spent two years recovering in the hospital, but he lost both his legs beneath the knee. He now walks with prosthetics.

 (Ramos talking on radio)

A few years ago , the Hero Rat program hired Ramos as a radio operator.

Ramos: [subtitle] When I first heard about the company, I didn’t think it was to clear mines.  I thought it was to clear rats from peoples’ houses.

Ramos changed his mind about the rats after seeing them in action. 

He welcomes the reinforcements which have just arrived from Tanzania. Over the next few weeks,  Ararat and the other new rats will be put through rigorous government licensing tests.

Meanwhile, Bart’s brother, Frank, has set up a base camp where he shows us how the demining works.

(Deminers suiting up and heading out)

We suit up in protective gear and join a team heading out.

(Sound-up of Frank and Lex suiting up)

Frank: You’re going to be feeling very elegant in this thing.

(Walk out in single file; shot of Frank)

Frank: Never go beyond any of the red marked poles.  Never step over any tape.

After clearing dense vegetation, the deminers use metal detectors.  It’s a dangerous and painstaking process that moves inch by inch.

And the detectors are triggered by even the smallest metal object.

(Rats being put on the string in the field in Mozambique.  Start of demining process)

This is where Bart’s rats have the advantage.  Zeroing in on just the explosives.

(Rat finding a mine, Bart looking on)

Since the rats first began working here four years ago, they found a hand grenade, unexploded ammunition, and 22 landmines.

For Bart, after so many years of preparation each trip into the minefields is a moment of truth.  When the rats begin to scratch, the deminers were called in.

Uncovered, just where the rats indicated, a land mine, which is carefully diffused. The rats are rarely wrong.

 (Deminer defuses the newly discovered landmine)

(Pan from school to APOPO sign, then kids)

Bart’s Hero Rats are now demining the land around this school.  They’ve cleared a hundred acres. Children now play here unafraid.  It’s another success for a program that many doubted.

(Bart under picture)

Bart:  In the beginning it was really tough, everywhere I went to apply for funding we were just laughed at.  Institutions were actually very, very reluctant towards such an approach.

Alexis: In that initial stage, did you ever think to yourself what am I doing this for?

Bart:  Well the reason why was clear, obvious.  I dreamt of a better world.  As long as these mines are there, people just cannot build a normal life. 

(Dip to black)

Back in his laboratory, Bart thinks he’s found yet another way for his rats to help save lives.

(Shots of labs and samples in big fridge)

Bart and his wife, Maureen, have discovered that rats can help doctors diagnose tuberculosis by smelling it.

(Computer pan to reveal Maureen and Bart lab techs with rats in training box.  Lex, Bart and Maureen in lab)

In Africa, TB is a leading cause of death.  A lab technician can only test around 20 samples a day.  One rat can test up to 2000.

Alexis:  You could pretty much put any scent in?

(Rat walking down box corridor, sniffs hole)

Bart: Indeed, this is a generic technology.  In the end the animals are trained to pinpoint a specific target scent.  What that target scent is…can be anything.

(Rat and lab shots)

Bart says the possibilities for his rats are limitless.

Bart: They save human lives, and yes, they are heroes actually. 

(CU Ararat.  Rats in cages pan around room)

Inspired by a boyhood passion, Bart took a chance. And so far, his rats keep paying off.
(Training field with clouds)
(music up)

(map zoom out)



Bumper #3

Finally, tonight, it's banned in Saudi Arabia, but it's the most popular comic book in the Middle East.


Kuwait: THE 99

(map graphic zoom out)

(FLW logo)

(music up)

(Kuwait City wide street shot.  Close-up of people on street.  Men praying.  Dr. Nif Al-Mutawa coming out of door)


Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa is a Kuwaiti psychologist who lives in an affluent suburb outside of Kuwait City with his wife and four sons.

(Dr. enters living room with kids.  Close-up of son and father.  Close-up of diploma)

A self-described work-a-holic since his early school days, Al-Mutawa went to college in the United States where he received his Phd in psychology and a masters degree in business.  But Al-Mutawa’s passion has always been for writing and in his early 20s he authored and illustrated a series of children’s books.

(Close-up of Al-Mutawa on computer)
(Family eating dinner)

When Al-Mutawa returned to Kuwait from the United States in 2004, he found himself at a professional and personal crossroads.

(Close-up of Al-Mutawa)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  I just graduated from school in the States, come back um full of…full of ideas and how the world should be.

(Close-up of Al-Mutawa working)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  And I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.

(Hazy shot of back of car.  Photo of Dr. with mother and sister)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  So I was in a London cab going from Edgewood Road to Harris with my mother and my sister.  My sister turned to me and she said, “Naif, do you remember you told me that after school, you’d go back to writing?”  And I said, “Yeah, I remember.”  And she goes, “Well, what do you think?”

(Back to Dr. Al-Mutawa)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  I said, “Saamba, after this education, it’s got to be something that has the potential of Pokeman, otherwise it just doesn’t make sense.”

(Shots of streets from car)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  And this is where luck or fate first struck my project, cause what happened in my mind was the following.

(Image of Pokeman on black screen.  People protesting.)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  I said Pokeman.  My next thought was that there had been a fatwah issued against Pokeman in this region. 

(Close-up of man in protest.  Shot of sunset)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  My next thought was my god, who are these people, and who appointed them to be spokespeople for Islam.  My next thought was of Allah, and how disappointed he must be. 

(Back to Dr, Al-Mutawa)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  My next thought was that Allah had 99 attributes, and that brought me full circle back to Pokeman, which is a concept of 300 attributes.  And at the end of that cab ride, I turned to my sister and I said. “What do you think of this?”

(Young boy smiling with The 99 on table in front of him.  Shots of kids reading The 99.  Close-ups of the comic book.)

The result was The 99 -  the first western-styled comic book with Islamic superheroes which is now outselling comic giants like Spiderman and Batman in markets throughout the Middle east. 

(Young Boy.  Close-ups of comic book and characters)

(Video of The 99)

The title of Al-Mutawa’s comic book is a reference to one of the most recognizable concepts in Islam – Allah’s 99 names or attributes.  Each superhero in The 99 is meant to personify one of these characteristics.

(Pictures of characters from The 99)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  Things like generosity, strength, wisdom, foresight, mercy. And they’re 99 heroes from 99 countries.

(Back to Dr. Al-Mutawa)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  Almost evenly split between boys and girls. And they are ready to save the world.

Young Boy:  I’ll tell you about The 99.  It’s a very nice comic book.  It has so many Islam characters, and they get powers to see the darkness in them, the lightness.  My favorite character is El Bilal because he has extra strength extraordinary. That’s why I like him when he eats so much.

(Dr. Al-Mutawa talking to group of investors)

When Al-Mutawa was pitching the idea of The 99 to potential investors, he shared the story of a Palestinian business man.

(Images of suicide bomber cards and stickers)

Selling trading cards and sticker books of suicide bombers sold by the millions to children in the West Bank and throughout the Middle East. “ The Islamic world needed new heroes, he argued...."

(Al-Mutawa giving a presentation.  Headquarters of Teschkeel Comics)

He raised $7 million from investors in ten countries, most of if from the Middle East, and established the headquarters of Teshkeel Comics in Kuwait city.

(Images of comic.  Shot of Comic Artist)

In building one of the first comic book companies in the middle east, Al-Mutawa has recruited some of the best talent in the comic book industry.

(Shots of Comic artist drawing)

John McCrea:  It’s just a solid, entertaining comic that tries to show characters who normally don’t get seen in American comics, in a good light and being the heroes for once.  That’s very commendable and enjoyable.

(Office shots at headquarters)

Shatha Khaled Tarawneh:  I think this is revolutionary.  It’s really sending out a really good message about Islam’s correcting the way the world sees us.    A lot of us do want to live in the world peacefully with everybody else, and have the freedom to be you know to be Muslim.

(Outdoor shots)

But support for The 99 is far from universal – the comic book has been banned in Saudi Arabia…and as its popularity increases so do the concerns of conservative Muslims.

Professor Abdullah Aganam:  In this 99, there are some ideas that clash with the holy Koran terms, and with the traditions of Prophet Mohammed, okay.  In this one, for example Prophet Mohammed says you have to believe in God, who can help you.  And in this comic, I have to believe in individuals who can help me.  This is a very strong contradiction. 

(Shots of young children reading the comic)

Professor Abdullah Aganam:  He knows, if this comic book going to harm the values of children, many people will stand against it. 

(Back to Professor Abdullah Aganam)

Professor Abdullah Aganam: We are going to stop it.

(Shots of men praying)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  There are different interpretations of religion. 

(Son reading.  Dr. Al-Mutawa in living room with son)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  And some are more abstract and some are more concrete. 

(Shot of Professor Abdullah Aganam)

Dr. Al-Mutawa: And the version that this particular person espouses is pretty concrete.

(Back to Dr. Al-Mutawa)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  And so the world is black and white.  There is no gray area.  And if nothing else The 99 is a gray area.

(Music, shots of characters in comic shop)

Dr. Al-Mutawa: My hope is that this is going to be one of the concepts that kids grow up with worldwide that show them that there really isn’t that much difference between us.

(Back to Dr. Al-Mutawa)

Dr. Al-Mutawa:  And I hope to God that millions of people, and I say millions without exaggerating, step up and say this is my contribution for Islam 2.0.  This is my contribution.

(Shots of children, comics, comic shop)

Bumper #4:

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