Shadow World

Shadow World

Based on Andrew Feinstein's globally acclaimed book The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade (2011), this explosive film reveals the murky world of the international arms trade. Stiching together expert interviews and archive footage, Shadow World reveals that corruption is not a dirty little side effect of the arms trade, but in fact its defining factor. Politicians, who are supposed to represent our hopes and dreams, sell us fear and nightmares in the interest of the very corporations that profit from war. By shedding light on how our realities are being constructed, the film argues, with alarming plausibility, that we have privatized the function of war. As a result, bribes and corruption determine the economic and foreign policies of some of the biggest countries in the world, making sure that there is always a war to be fought.


“I'm an invisible man, not because I don't exist, but because you choose not to see me.”

Prince Bandar bin Sultan1


“After all, Darth Vader is one of the nicer things I've been called recently.”

Dick Cheney2


“The business of war manipulates the media to cultivate an industry of fear, which in turn has created a reality defined by violence. My approach to the storytelling involves a media archaeology, examining how the media affects us, while examining myths about human nature celebrating greed and self-interest. I believe as humans we can choose to embrace a different paradigm-one that is based on cooperation, conflict transformation and dialogue. As Howard Zinn once said, "The fact that war belongs to the past, does not mean it has to be part of the future."”

Johan Grimonprez3


Catherine Bernard: In his interview for Shadow World, Michael Hard points out that the militaryindustrial complex has become a form of historical oversimplification that does not take into account the real core. Sure, the military-industrial complex and the arms trade are extremely important, as are the profits they generate and their influence in foreign policy. But don't they argue that one has to recognize a much deeper continuation of violence, of which warfare is only the tip of the iceberg?

Johan Grimonprez: Indeed, Hard and Negri acknowledge a world system that is becoming ever more what they call a system of "global apartheid." But they define global apartheid not simply as being about exclusions or walls, such as the US-Mexican border, or the border between Israel and Palestine. What's more characteristic and even more insidious are the hierarchical inclusions that mandate a kind of subordination, like the way apartheid functioned in South Africa, forbidding any possibility of movement, socially and physically. It's really about making these subordinations extremely intimate and part of everyday life, such that it actually structures our lives around violent storytelling. International law served in the twentieth century merely to legitimate and support the violence of the strong over the weak. The inequality of power seems to make it impossible to establish equality before the law. The violence of the strong is automatically legitimated, even invisible, while the violence of the weak is immediately labeled terrorism.”

Catherine Bernard4

  • 1Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. (1983 - 2005), quoting The Invisible Man (2020).
  • 2Dick Cheney in a speech at The Washington Institute, October 2007.
  • 3Johan Grimonprez, Director's Statement, Press kit, 2016.
  • 4Catherine Bernard, "Falling Together: A dialogue between Catherine Bernard and Johan Grimonprez about the film Shadow World,", January 2017.


“Bijzonder aan de montage van deze interviews – de ‘talking heads’ – is de manier waarop Grimonprez ze in beeld brengt: hij doorbreekt de cleane format van een persoon die een getuigenis voor de camera aflegt. In plaats daarvan komt de hele opbouw af en toe ook in beeld. Of de praatjes die de geïnterviewde vooraf maakt tijdens het schminken.

Grimonprez kiest er dus voor om wapenhandelaars, onderzoeksjournalisten en voormalige militaire specialisten als normale mensen in beeld te brengen die elk hun verhaal willen vertellen. Vervolgens bestaat de kracht van de montage eruit de getuigenissen tegen elkaar uit te spelen of elkaar te laten aanvullen. Dat heeft het effect van een verloskunde met het oog op een waarachtig en coherent overkoepelend verhaal.

Diezelfde strategie – de betrokkenen als gewone mensen in beeld brengen – zorgt er ook voor dat je als kijker niet platgeslagen wordt door een harde realiteit. Hoewel de ontnuchtering natuurlijk groot blijft.

Grimonprez koos er immers voor om de politieke hoofdpersonages vooral niet in hun onaantastbaarheid te tonen. In tegendeel: presidenten en premiers komen in beeld op momenten dat ze met de billen bloot gaan of een gênant figuur slaan.”

Robrecht Vanderbeken1

  • 1Robrecht Vanderbeken, "Shadow World: Oorlog is big business,", 19 oktober 2016.
UPDATED ON 06.12.2023
IMDB: tt2626338