Steve O’Brien caught up with David Bradbury, independent filmmaker and twice Academy Award-nominated director and producer, at the 2023 Climate Camp in Newcastle. Bradbury’s latest film, The Road To War, is currently being screened around Australia.
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What inspired you to make The Road To War?
I could see with the change of government, the Anthony Albanese Labor government was going to continue along the same path of sucking up to America and continuing the alliance with the United States that has operated since World War II and got us into the Korean War (in which 3 million Koreans died), the Vietnam War (where up to 5 million Vietnamese died), then into two wars in Iraq and the disaster that was the Afghanistan campaign. So I decided to make this film because I saw America rattling the sabres over its insecurity that this was going to be the Chinese Century as opposed to the North American Century, and that could lead us into a nuclear war with China.
We are at the Climate Camp here as activists who really care about the planet and we have to face up to the fact that we haven’t got much time. We are on a trajectory that if we don’t blow ourselves up with nuclear missiles then we are going down the gurgler in the next decade with climate change. There is no time for pussyfooting around anymore.
I’ve spent the last 45 years making docos that tell it like it is so I just got this one out with a budget of two and sixpence.
I have decided to take this film on the road because, ironically, because I can put this out there on social media on small little grabs, you don’t empower activists that way.
I am taking this film around as much as I can and, if communities say we want your film, I’ll Zoom in to those communities in Alice Springs, Perth, Darwin or wherever to explain why I made the film and to empower communities.
What is making us take this road “down the gurgler” as you say?
I believe that in the contest between major powers for who is going to be the top dog on the block may take us out sooner than will climate change — and we don’t have much time with climate change!
Signing up for the $368 billion dollar nuclear submarines deal — for submarines that won’t be delivered for 45 years — is buying into America’s corporate strategy where we are stupid enough to fuel the weapons industry by putting all this money to Lockheed Martin or the British arms companies.
AUKUS is the same old beating of the drum we saw under SEATO [the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization which comprised the US, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan] and ANZUS [the Australia, NZ and US alliance] that got us into the wars in Korea, Vietnam and so on. It is a poisoned chalice.
Even worse than SEATO and ANZUS, we don’t know what we have signed up for under AUKUS because the politicians treat us with such contempt now. They say, we live in a democracy, trust us, vote for us every four years and all will be well.
Albanese, who was on the left wing of the Labor party and had as his political mentors the likes of Tom Uren, Jim Cairns and Lance Barnard, has now rolled over and sided with the right wing of the party. It is like Tony Blair is running the [Australian Labor Party] ALP now in the guise of Albanese, doing what he has to do to get the nod from Uncle Sam.
Where do you place your hopes for change?
I am inspired by the young people here at the Climate Camp — though I wish there were more. Just as in our time when we stood up against the Vietnam War and Apartheid, and behind First Peoples, young people are doing the same today.
I was arrested at the first Tent Embassy in 1972 and that politicised me. When you confront power and see how brutal they can be in a “democracy” (tell that to Julian Assange) it does politicise you. That is why I make films and get out there with them.
So I say, young people go for it and do what you have to do!
[To arrange a community screening of The Road to War, email firstname.lastname@example.org.]