In memoriam: Adrian Cowell
Adrian Cowell, a groundbreaking documentary film maker and good friend, died early October in London.
The last time he was with us at TNI in Amsterdam was in 2009 for a meeting with representatives from opium growing regions in northern Burma, where we also showed his TV documentary 'The Heroin Wars'. For many of those present from the ethnic groups from the Shan and Kachin states it was the first time to see the remarkable footage spanning three decades and explaining like no other movie ever did the history of opium and conflict in Burma. At the same time Adrian’s documentary is unparalleled in explaining the background of the heroin epidemic and the stupidity and futility of the war on drugs in the region.
In December 2003 Adrian was one of the key-note speakers at an international conference TNI organized jointly with the Burma Centre Netherlands to discuss the dilemmas for drug policy responses in Burma. His presentation on ‘Opium Anarchy in the Shan State of Burma’ became the first chapter of our book ‘Trouble in the Triangle, Opium and Conflict in Burma’. During the event we showed his famous film ‘The Opium Warlords’. As he usually did, he left the room when the documentary was shown still feeling uncomfortable watching how people reacted to his work. Adrian was a remarkable person, far too modest about his own work. His documentaries are without any doubt the best ever made and can make anyone truly understand and feel the reality of the complex dynamics of drugs and conflict, in a way papers and books never can.
Fortunately his work has not died with Adrian and we will continue using his documentaries, but we’ll dearly miss the courageous and kind man who made them.
Martin Jelsma & Tom Kramer TNI Drugs & Democracy programme
Watch trailers of the three-part documentary The Heroin Wars
The Heroin Wars, Pt. 1 - The Opium Convoys (Bullfrog Films clip)
The Heroin Wars, Pt. 2 - Smack City (Bullfrog Films)
The Heroin Wars, Pt. 3 - The Kings of Opium (Bullfrog Films clip)
For more info about Adrian’s remarkable life and work: Passage of a Trailblazer (obituary by Bertil Lindner in Asia Times Online)
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