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Michael F. Blake,
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In the "extras" on the DVD there is a short interview with Nachtwey that is perhaps as telling about him as the entire film. One of the comments he makes is that he sees himself as a conduit, and it is his monk-like dedication to being a passive photographer that I think is somewhat problematic in having a film about him.
As such, while I have profound respect for Nachtwey's efforts, his results and evidently his civility in the face of brutality, this film I think is not an essential watch. If you are like me, and feel it is important to remind yourself of how privileged your existence is from time to time, this will suffice. But not as well as an afternoon at a soup kitchen...
I think there is no doubt as to the bravery of a war photographer, in my naivete, I did not think that some folks saw them as crass profiteers until seeing this film (and reading some commentary online. "Vampirism" is addressed obliquely in the film. Well, all aspects are addressed obliquely in this film.
Back to "vampirism," again even if a person were greedy, that would not deny his/her bravery. As I write this, all I know is that Nachtwey was injured in early December along with Michael Weisskopf who allegedly was very heroic in harm's way. I've not seen many updates since the initial reports, and it's been nearly a month. At this time, I should also point out there is a jamesnachtwey.com with some of the photos from this film.
In hindsight, I would suggest viewing more photos, while reading the text of interviews with Nachtwey and skip this film.
There are some creative microcameras used to put us not only in Nachtwey's shoes, but in his lens. I found them quickly a distraction, if not an annoyance. And sometimes there would be a lengthy microcamera shot looking back at Nachtwey's brow, properly furrowed as he took in the atrocity at hand.
Images from a sulfur mine (moving from martial to capitalistic crimes?) were eerily beautiful, especially in video format. And video was another problem for me, personally I prefer it to photography. Whether for a wedding, or a war.
But video certainly in its elongation of time, rather than a snapshots snap moment, makes you wonder about the before and after of activities. We demand more from video, with photos we demand more from ourselves.
We see Palestinians with rocks, slingshots and molitov cocktails hurling blindly though smoke and over and around concrete. No story behind why they are there, and some of them seem quite young. A pet peeve of mine is why kids are allowed in harms way in such settings.
People in Jakarta are living near the train tracks, and one family is given specific focus. The message is that these people are just like you, striving to support their children...
But again the video makes me wonder about that family some more. The father has lost an arm and a leg to the trains that he now keeps his family living near by, and unlike the other families, in lean-to's off to the side of the tracks, they are shown "sleeping" right between the tracks.
These questions pop up with video, whereas I think a few photographs and Nachtwey's words voiced over or written in an article would not.
In conclusion, I feel somewhat conflicted giving this less than a 6, especially as I am more than likely aligned with the general beliefs of Nachtwey. His stated belief in the importance of one life is something that I think as individuals we have to try and assert knowing that governments and companies understand how cheap human life is.
That's a tricky balance, and one hard to put on video, possibly better left to a photo and then meditated upon by each one us. We do see many photos here, but then as they are "embedded" in video, they are tainted by that. It happens with embedding I think...the meter is running and the demands of the film must be met. Maybe I should have hit the pause button for each photo?
With hope, soon Nachtwey will be well from his wounds, and again able to document the wounds of the world for us.
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