Under Fire

One of the first things explained in director Martyn Burke's documentary Under Fire: Journalists in Combat is that war correspondents and photojournalists only wear clothing made of wool or cotton; if they're caught in a fire or explosion, synthetic fabrics would melt into their skin and have to be scraped off with "a cheese grater–like device." Little else that's revealed in the film is actually surprising, but it's still fascinating and often devastating. The men and women who cover wars and conflicts around the globe are almost uniformly tough (at least outwardly), driven, and obsessed with their jobs. Some chalk the obsession up to being adrenaline junkies; others dismiss that notion but are murky on another explanation. Introduced with a list of places they've covered (Libya, Cambodia, Afghanistan) scrolling next to their images, the journalists—such as Chris Hedges, and colleagues who work for Reuters, ITN London, and the Associated Press—hold forth on everything from personal issues (their backgrounds, family life) to professional (juggling family and job; work-related illness and injuries, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder; the ethics and morality of what they do). As they speak, astonishing images appear on-screen—footage of riots shot from an eye-of-the-hurricane perspective and of reporters being ambushed, iconic and controversial photos and video. It's the unblinking presentation of the latter that pushes the film from merely being a catharsis for the speakers to becoming fodder for serious contemplation by us all.

 
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