The result is an emotional portrait of the effects wrought by the production of war. Hedges and Privitera both speak openly in their interviews and are often on the verge of breaking down. Hedges is particularly mournful about the damage caused by a history of foreign intervention.
The interviews are intercut with news coverage and surveillance footage tracking the 2010 covert assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh by Mossad agents. But the focus is on the faces of the video’s two subjects, stiff with anger, eyes unfocused. If Shadow World attempts to decipher the abstract mechanizations of the global arms trade—the depth and scope of the deception—then | blue orchids | is about how those same deceptions wreck human lives.
The two films remain formally and thematically linked, despite serving different purposes. Detailing the hidden web of corruption that surrounds the global selling of weapons, Shadow World takes a more traditional approach to telling its story, partly due to the time restrictions placed on a theatrically released film. You can only do so much in 94 minutes, and the goal was to simplify a complicated subject, to shed light on something obscured from view, not make it more difficult to understand. “This world is full of manipulation and false stories, so it was crucial to actually expose that,” says Grimonprez. “It was investigative journalism from the start, so we stayed true to the nature of what that demands.”
In | blue orchids |, both Hedges and Privitera are scarred by their experiences and are left with a sense of disillusionment. What they have seen—Privitera reads a particularly harrowing story about children that he saw killed—offers them little hope that things will change. At times, Grimonprez sounds equally discouraged. “I sometimes think that we’ve ended up in a society where we don’t know anymore how to talk about community or how we stand in the world together,” he laments. “We don’t have a vocabulary, and we don’t have the tools.”
But, Grimonprez insists, there is hope to be found. He talks about how on the island of Andros in Greece, where he lives when not teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, there are people who have begun to share harvesting and are learning how to live outside of a culture based around money. There is activism and widespread protests here in the United States. People are beginning to dismiss the stories they have been told and create new ones.