When the bombing is over

Watching "Behind Closed Eyes," Duco Tellegen's documentary about four children in war-torn areas of the world, the first phrase that comes to mind is irrepressible resilience.

Eranda, a seven-year-old from Kosovo, flees with her family to a windswept refugee camp in Macedonia. From there, they are airlifted to temporary shelter in the Netherlands, and then finally back to their home – overgrown but still standing. All without bitterness – at least on Eranda's part.

What this Dutch director does is look at the real aftermath of conflict. He strips away the politics and military combat from the story, and takes the child's perspective: day to day life at its most unadorned.

It doesn't make good front-page news, because it's the longer, more complicated story of rebuilding lives and cities and societies. When the aid agencies pull out and the journalists leave town, it is the record of those left holding on.

Compared with their aftermath, wars tend to be short. In Kosovo, NATO bombing lasted 78 days. But three years on, the peace is largely cold, and held together with NATO administrative glue.

Monitor reporter Justin Brown recently returned to Kosovo, where he first covered the conflict. He sought out local people he had met years before and recounts his sober findings (see lead story, right).

In "Behind Closed Eyes," shown at a Human Rights Watch film festival here in January, one of the most unmistakable refrains is how the children learn to build a future despite a blighted past. Not just Eranda, but a former child soldier in Liberia, a Cambodian teenager maimed by a land mine, and a Rwandan girl raped by soldiers and raising the child conceived.

The past doesn't bind them.

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