Under Fire: Journalists in Combat: movie review
'Under Fire' is sometimes difficult to watch, but addresses the essential questions raised by the high death rate of journalists in war zones.
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CBC correspondent Susan Ormiston talks about the difficulty in wrenching herself away from her home to go on assignment. "The hardest part is the week before you go because you look at your children and you question why you go. Women never stop being a mother no matter where they go." She describes the surreal experience of being in an active combat zone while talking on the phone to her daughter about the Easter Bunny.Skip to next paragraph
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Asked if the war experience is different for women, she answers, somewhat defensively, "There are plenty of men who are fathers." But Christina Lam of The Sunday Times of London describes the special harassments of being a woman in a war zone, especially in the Middle East, where being groped is a regular occurrence and baggy clothes are standard. "You develop sharp elbows," she says.
Former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, author of the memoir "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," says, "In the same way a drug physically breaks down an addict, I was broken down by war." We see live footage of BBC special correspondent Jeremy Bowen at the moment when a colleague is killed in full view of him perhaps 50 yards away. Another reporter talks about how he told a little girl to wait for a photo while he went inside a building for a moment only to find her shot dead by a Bosnian sniper when he returned. Many of the correspondents harbor an overriding guilt about surviving or placing others in danger.
Is it worth it in the end to lose your life for a picture? An even larger question: How moral is it to depict as a profession the suffering of others? The fame and honor that sometimes come with their work do not seem to be the motivating forces behind these men and women.
Perhaps the most wrenching interview in the film is with Paul Watson, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his photo of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu – a photo that helped spur a US foreign-policy change in the region. He is still riven by his decision to take the shot. The mother of the slain soldier refused to speak to him. Rebuffed in his search for forgiveness, he says today, "I don't feel like a good person anymore."
But he also says about himself and his compatriots: "Don't ask for sympathy. You made the choice. Ask God's sympathy if you must, but don't ask people to feel sorry for you." Grade: A- (Unrated)
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