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Scotland Hosts UK Premiere of Oscar Nominated Drama

Posted by David Eyre UK Poverty Press Officer

2nd Oct 2012

David Grimason during the lobby of the United Nations in July 2012

"War Witch" Highlights Need For Arms Trade Treaty

A hard-hitting Oscar nominated drama never before screened in the UK is being premiered in Scotland as part of the campaign for a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

War Witch (15) follows Komona, a 14-year-old girl in a conflict ravaged African state who is kidnapped, forced to take drugs and become a child soldier. Directed by Kim Nguyen - and winner of "Best narrative feature" at the Tribeca Film Festival 2012 - the film has been nominated for the Foreign Language Oscar.  

The screenings - in Glasgow on Tuesday (Oct 2) and Edinburgh on Wednesday (Oct 3) - will be followed by panel discussions. Among the panellists will be the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

It comes at a crucial time in the decade long campaign for an ATT. The First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly will meet in New York next week (from Oct 8) and states will decide what happens next in the journey towards delivering a strong, legally binding treaty.

The screenings are being supported by Scots dad David Grimason whose 2-year-old son Alistair was killed in Turkey nine years ago when a gunman opened fire in a cafe as he lay asleep in his pram.

"What happened to my family will never leave me but this film clearly shows the problem is global in scale and that it is hitting some of the world's most fragile states hardest", said Mr Grimason. "It highlights why an Arms Trade Treaty is so badly needed. We must maintain the fight for a strong treaty that will save lives, and this screening will help maintain the momentum", he added.

Mr Grimason attended the Diplomatic Conference at the UN in July to lobby for an ATT as part of the global Control Arms campaign, backed by Oxfam; he met with the UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, attended the global petition handover with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and lobbied delegates from around the world.

"In July we came close to making history," said Oxfam Scotland's Campaign Manager Jamie Livingstone - who will take part in both panel discussions. "Hopes of a deal were dashed when the United States and others unexpectedly blocked the treaty's adoption at the last minute, but this is just a delay, and not the end of the process. As this film graphically depicts, we must turn off the tap of weapons flooding into some of the world's worst conflict zones. We hope screening it will maintain Scots' overwhelming support for the ATT."

Eight million light weapons and 12 billion bullets are produced each year. One person dies every minute because of armed violence with millions more injured and forced from their homes each year.

As July's conference drew to a close, 95 states expressed their support for a treaty that prevents arms transfers where there is a risk that they will be used for violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, or where the transfer of arms undermines development.

Last week, the Foreign Secretary William Hague joined senior ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Sweden in calling for the completion of a "strong treaty". The six countries are among the world's largest arms exporters.

It's hoped the UN will now agree to a new diplomatic conference to secure the treaty as early as possible in 2013. The existing draft treaty text provides a basis on which to build. While several loopholes must be removed to ensure a strong deal, an ATT is within reach.

War Witch is being screened in Scotland as part of the Take One Action Film Festival which celebrates the people and movies that are changing the world.

"With War Witch already having won best film at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival and now nominated for the Oscars, these UK premiere screenings in Edinburgh and Glasgow are an absolute coup for film lovers in Scotland", said Festival Director Simon Bateson. "Coming out and seeing the film is also one way for the general public to honour International Day of Non-Violence this week, and learn how to help the millions of children in conflict represented by this amazing story", he added. 

Blog post written by David Eyre

UK Poverty Press Officer

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