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Stealing a Nation
IMDB Rating: 8.0/10 from 246 votes
Release: 31 July 2004 (UK) /

Stealing a Nation

Genre: Documentary
Director: John Pilger,
Synopsis: This tells a story literally 'hidden from history'. In the 1960s and 70s, British governments, conspiring with American officials, tricked into leaving, then expelled the entire population of the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean. The aim was to give the principal island of this Crown Colony, Diego Garcia, to the Americans who wanted it as a major military base. Indeed, from Diego Garcia US planes have since bombed Afghanistan and Iraq. The story is told by islanders who were dumped in the slums of Mauritius and in the words of the British officials who left a 'paper trail' of what the International Criminal Court now describes as 'a crime against humanity' . Written by Anonymous

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Critic Reviews

This well conceived and carefully researched documentary outlines the appalling case of the Chagos Islanders, who, it shows, between 1969 and 1971, were forcibly deported en masse from their homeland through the collusion of the British and American governments. Anglo-American policy makers chose to so act due to their perception that the islands would be strategically vital bases for controlling the Indian Ocean through the projection of aerial and naval power. At a time during the Cold War when most newly independent post-colonial states were moving away from the Western orbit, it seems British and American officials rather felt that allowing the islanders to decide the fate of the islands was not a viable option. Instead they chose to effect the wholesale forcible removal of the native population. The film shows that no provision was made for the islanders at the point of their ejection, and that from the dockside in Mauritius where they were left, the displaced Chagossian community fell into three decades of privation, and in these new circumstances, beset by homesickness, they suffered substantially accelerated rates of death.

Following the passage of more than three decades, however, in recent months (and years), following the release of many utterly damning papers from Britain's Public Record Office (one rather suspects that there was some mistake, and these papers were not supposed to have ever been made public), resultant legal appeals by the Chagossian community in exile have seen British courts consistently find in favour of the islanders and against the British State. As such, the astonishing and troubling conclusions drawn out in the film can only reasonably be seen as proved. Nevertheless, the governments of Great Britain and the United States have thus far made no commitment to return the islands to what the courts have definitively concluded are the rightful inhabitants. This is a very worthwhile film for anyone to see, but it is an important one for Britons and Americans to watch. To be silent in the face of these facts is to be complicit in a thoroughly ugly crime.

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