Veillées d'armes (1994) Poster

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Typically good (and long) Marcel Ophuls documentary
jrd_736 May 2013
This four hour documentary is a long haul but also very rewarding.

Director Marcel Ophuls focuses on journalists under fire in Sarejevo in early 1993. This is a dangerous job. Several reporters have died and many others have been wounded (snipers do not always spare journalists). Ophuls interviews several reporters (TV, radio, print) over his two journeys to the city. The journalists I found most interesting were John Simpson from the BBC, freelance cameraman Patrick Chauvel, and New York Times reporter John Burns, who is the most outspoken (and the most hated by the Serbs) of the journalists interviewed.

Ophuls is not just concerned with the reporters who are in Sarajevo. Ophuls also (briefly) covers reportage during the first Gulf War and, going back almost sixty years, the Spanish Civi War, interviewing the still feisty journalist Martha Gellhorn. Ophuls is also interested in the Bosnian war itself and how it has been portrayed to the general public.

Some of Ophuls digressions get tiresome. The scenes detailing Ophuls' irritation with news anchors adds more running time and takes one out of Sarejevo. I also question some of the editing choices. Was it really a good idea to cut from an interview with an actor who lost both legs in a grenade attack to a film clip of James Cagney dancing in Yankee Doodle Dandy? Why does Ophuls film some random naked girl on his hotel bed in Venice? Is she a hooker, a journalist, or an Ophuls groupie? Got me, but there she is naked on Ophuls's bed as the smug auteur shaves in the adjoining bathroom (LOOK WHAT I AM GOING TO BED WITH).

These complaints aside, this documentary is well worth viewing even if the four hour running time is generous. Like a time machine, the film took me back twenty years. The Troubles We've Seen is available as a DVD-r through Milestone Film & Video.
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