|Produced by||Christian Frei|
|Music by||Eleni Karaindrou
James Nachtwey (microcam)
|Language||English, German and French|
War Photographer is a documentary by Christian Frei about the photographer James Nachtwey. As well as telling the story of an iconic man in the field of war photography, the film addresses the broader scope of ideas common to all those involved in war journalism, as well as the issues that they cover.
One of the main themes of the documentary is the level to which a journalist should become involved in the events that they are there to document. Nachtwey credits the intimacy of his photography to his emphasis on establishing a rapport with his subjects, often despite a significant language barrier. Des Wright, a cameraman with Reuters, describes the problem of being too far removed from what is happening. Discussing a video reel of President Suharto's resignation and a police crackdown on protestors, he notes: "[Some journalists] say, 'I'm sorry, I'm a journalist, I'm not a part of this.' And I say, but you are a part of it. I think a lot of people would be quite happy for that man to be killed so they can get the particular picture that they want."
The documentary uses footage filmed with a small "microcam" video camera mounted on Nachtwey's SLR cameras. This technique gives a sense of immediacy to the viewer, showing events from the perspective of the photographer. So for the first time in the history of documentary films about photographers, thanks to a small camera attached to James’ body, the director reflects a real look into the work of a photojournalist.
A photo is not just an image; it is a trace of reality, an experience captured, a moment. Photography is an art that gives importance to events and makes them worth remembering. It is about telling the reality; about showing what other people are not able to see, to make them aware of it through the images they receive from the media. Thus, when the picture serves as informing, we find ourselves facing at other art—photojournalism. As James Nachtwey states: “If everyone could be there to see for themselves the fear and the grief, just one time, then they would understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that happens to even one person, let alone thousands. But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there, to show them, to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are doing and pay attention to what is going on, to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference, to protest, and by the strength of that protest to make others protest” Therefore, the role photography plays is essential in order to put on the spot the war situation of these areas and countries.
Events and locations depicted in the film
- Post-war Kosovo
- Poverty and riots in Jakarta, Indonesia
- Ramallah, the West Bank
- A sulfur mine at Ijen in East Java, Indonesia
- New York City, New York, United States
- Hamburg, Germany
- Thokoza, South Africa
Edward Guthmann from The San Francisco Chronicle has emphasized that the film appeals to the spectators’ sense for compassion:
|“||War correspondents, at least the ones that appear in movies, are rancid, crusty creatures -- emotionally numb, frequently drunk. James Nachtwey, the subject of the extraordinary "War Photographer," not only belies that image but also stands so far apart from it that his idealism and monklike commitment are inspiring. (...) This film is an act of spiritual faith – an eloquent, deeply felt meditation on the nature of compassion.||”|
Ken Fox has estimated the humanistic approach of the film and of the work of James Nachtwey:
|“||Frei assembles a fascinating profile of a deeply humanistic artist who, in spite of all that he's witnessed, remains surprisingly idealistic, and retains an extraordinary faith in the ability of images to communicate the truth of the world around him.||”|
Similar Peter Rainer from the New York Magazine:
|“||Nachtwey, in his mid-fifties and lanky, with a full shock of hair, has a cool, almost Zen-like deliberateness. He speaks slowly and carefully, as if he had long ago weighed his words, one by one, and was only now offering us their gravity. He has been photographing the globe's worst hot spots for 25 years and has probably seen up close more grief and ruination than anybody should have to see in a dozen lifetimes, and yet he still believes he's making a difference. He regards his photographs as an antidote to war, and himself as an antiwar photographer. (...) Nachtwey clears the cynicism right out of you. He makes you realize that deep inside righteousness can be found a tough beauty.||”|