Journalists will love this striking exploration of warzones over the past 15 years, following a photojournalist as he moves from naive and hungry to cynical and reflective by way of Bosnia, Chechnya, Rwanda, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
While on a hunting trip near his home in Memphis in 2007, 38-year-old photographer Robert King looks back at his career, starting with his first trip as a cocky freelance in Bosnia at age 24, confident he'd win a Pulitzer. Over the next decade and a half, the cameras follow King in Chechnya and Iraq, and we also see photos he shot for magazines and newspapers around the world. He still hasn't won that Pulitzer, but he's now settled in Tennessee with his Russian wife and their son.
The footage in this film is expertly shot by professional cameramen in some of the most harrowing places on earth. And it captures life within a hotspot in a fresh and revealing way, mainly because we're watching the journalists themselves as they react to horrific carnage. Much of this warzone footage was actually taken by director Parry and producer Smith, who appears on screen through the years, including the hunting trip.
The parallel between hunting deer and capturing a good photo may feel forced, but each sequence is packed with telling details about life on the front line.
This approach vividly catches the humour and edginess of life in such dangerous places. We clearly see how these men cope with the situation, waiting for something to happen, frantically scrabbling to stay alive, then relieving the tension through alcohol and sex. At one point, after covering the war in Chechnya, King moved to Moscow to document the wild party scene and nearly lost himself in it.
Most revealing is the contrast he notes between Bosnia, where he befriended Muslims, and Iraq, where Muslims are greeted by US troops' bullets while he's kept away from the action and only allowed to photograph staged events like giving footballs to kids. These kinds of subtle observations make the amazing footage and stills even more meaningful. This is a thoughtful and provocative film unlike anything we've seen. It's also vitally important.