Obituary: David Munro

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The Independent Culture
THE DOCUMENTARY film-maker David Munro will be best remembered for the epic documentaries he made in collaboration with the journalist John Pilger for ITV, and especially for the courage and ability that they both displayed 20 years ago when making Year Zero: the silent death of Cambodia, the 1979 film which revealed the horrors of Pol Pot's genocidal rule and for which the Khmer Rouge sentenced Munro and Pilger to death.

Death of a Nation - a chronicle of Indonesia's murderous occupation of East Timor - was made under similar duress in 1993. They first worked together on Do You Remember Vietnam? in 1978, and then on Heroes (1981), investigating America's treatment of its Vietnam veterans. Munro also made Going Back (1982) with Vietnam veterans on their first return to the war-torn country; The Four Horsemen (1986), a chronicle of the wars of the early 1980s; and Death of Venice (1996), in which he movingly filmed the dying city he loved.

He was more than just a producer and director. His voice was often heard as the narrator in other film-makers' work. He was an accomplished photographer as well as a cinematographer, at ease with film and video cameras, and he proved this brilliance when undercover with Pilger in East Timor and Burma. He was about to begin directing his own feature film in Venezuela when illness struck him earlier this year.

Munro came to film and television by way of a bizarre sequence of events - the first of which was getting the sack. His first move on leaving school was to become an apprentice jockey. He found work in stables that adjoined a girls' boarding school and despite his ability with the horses, his employment there was terminated when the school complained that he was having various relationships with both the students and members of staff.

When he suddenly became taller in his late teens, he had to abandon all thoughts of a career in the saddle and turned to his father Hugh's craft - acting. Z Cars was amongst the programmes in which he appeared, but his most remembered role was in the Rediffusion television series Orlando, which ran from 1965 until 1968, and in which he co-starred with Sam Kydd. Later Munro turned to film directing and his enormous potential was realised.

He fought his affliction as tirelessly as he confronted tyrants, arms dealers, governments and abusers of human rights. He championed the struggles of the common man and woman with incredible energy and grace. Even in ill-health he was still to be seen with students from the National Film and Television school.

David Boardman

David Ivor Munro, film-maker: born London 1 July 1944; three times married (one son, one daughter and one stepdaughter); died London 5 August 1999.

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