Journalists in Combat (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 90 minutes.
Clark Gable created the romantic image of the
dashing war correspondent in 1942's Somewhere I'll Find You, in
which he spent much of his time wooing Lana Turner, a film that typifies
the lack of realism in 1940s Hollywood.
Far from Hollywood, Martyn Burke has created a
harrowing documentary about today's real life war correspondents and
it's anything but romantic. Several correspondents are interviewed on
camera and tell what covering a war is really like. Lana Turner is
nowhere in sight. But what are in sight are people dead and dying,
combatants trying to kill the correspondents, and the aftermath of what
covering a war does to their psyche.
Jon Steele, videographer for ITN London tells how
he kept yelling "I need to get in this war." Burke shows footage of
battles where Steele is in the middle of fights that he shot himself. He
explains, "You never feel as alive as when you're staring death in the
face." He goes on to say, "Framing a shot of someone dying or someone
dead is obscene in some ways. When I say (in his book) that I needed
those people to die or to suffer, it's not as callous as it sounds
because I was trying to reach through the TV screen and grab people from
their lumpy chairs and drag them into my camera, and say, 'Look, look;
this is what it's like'." Burke's most compelling story is about a young
girl he told to stay where she was and he'd bring her some candy.
Many describe in telling detail how they are
burdened by suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Chris Hedges,
New York Times, says, "I prayed to God that if you get me out of here
I'll never do this again. But that's the difference between a sane
person and an insane person. A half hour later you think it's a great
cosmic joke...It takes a great toll, like a drug addict. I was being
broken down by war." He goes on, "It is possible to hate war, and yet
be utterly bound by the experience and be unable to cope outside the
ambience of war itself. Which is why war photographers and war
correspondents make up a small fraternity that tend to leap from
conflict to conflict to conflict."
Only two journalists were killed in WWI, 63 in
WWII. In the last two decades, an average of one journalist a week has
been killed. This film captures the horror of war better than anything
Steven Spielberg has ever done. The films here aren't on some romantic
location that looks like a battlefield or on sound stages; they were
taken in the middle of real battles with real bullets flying around.
There is a frightening film of Finbarr O'Reilly, a
Reuters photographer, in a Humvee being attacked by lots of angry people.
He kept yelling, "Drive, drive, drive!"
Ian Stewart, an AP journalist, shows the actual
bullet that went through a window and hit him in the head in Sierra
Leone. He tells about the attack that killed his cameraman, about
watching people being set on fire. He says he can see and hear them
screaming even now.
There's a lot more here. This is a film that brings
what's going on in the world much more alive than sitting in an easy
chair and watching a journalist doing a standup from a war zone. This is
what life is about in the many war zones of the world.
St. Bride's Church in London has an entire corner
dedicated to journalists who have lost their lives. As the camera scans
the wall with photos of them, and one realizes that what is going on in
the far corners of the world is very scary, one can't help but
appreciate what the people who bring the war news home go through and
how much of their joie de vivre they surrender.
is one of the better documentaries of the year.