Images of war are everywhere: We come across news of combat and bloodshed in print media, on television and across the internet on a daily basis. It’s easy to become numbed by images that portray realities so distant from our own. Still, we rarely seem to question the means by which such news has been recorded. Now being shown on The Documentary Channel, the film Under Fire: Journalists In Combat answers such questions by digging into the psychological effects of war from the perspective of the correspondents telling the story from the frontline. Though this riveting documentary, directed by Martyn Burke, was released last year, its impact is increasingly significant in a time when wars are an everyday occurrence and leave untold devastation in their wake.
For as long as war has existed, people have felt the need to document the events for posterity. We know the modern day war correspondent only through the brief glimpses of the stories they share across international news channels. For many of us, it’s a difficult to grasp what motivates these men and women to take on such dangerous jobs. Shedding light on the behind-the-scenes story in their own words, this documentary clarifies that these individuals consider their work title as much more than a job. Rather, it consumes their entire lives.
Despite often being pummeled with words of rebuke from audiences who can’t understand the full picture, they seem to keep pressing forward as a result of an incessant inner drive. What we do see is that many of these journalists eventually pay the ultimate price: death. It almost seems inevitable as journalists follow their inner compass needle that points them towards the next combat zone.
A journalist’s job description comes with mixed emotions, and undoubtedly is a fragmented choice of career path. Most want to be the truth bearers of society. Some want to be the gatekeepers of our conscience. We could say that all journalists, of any caliber, are driven by an inner force that pushes them to seek out the entire truth. As impossible a feat that may be, the correspondent’s efforts to bring even small portions of the big picture to light are what help us understand the world around us.
It’s clear Burke and his co-producer Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a psychiatrist and behavioral scientist, are both thoroughly familiar with the subject matter covered in this film. They choose to portray this through a series of interviews with correspondents and photographers, interspersed with actual footage from combat zones. As we get a glimpse into these war reporter’s lives and see the events through their eyes, the combat footage becomes difficult to watch. Hearing the soul shredding cries captured at such intense moments, it’s impossible to feel anesthetized to them. They’re not the glamorized images we might expect to come from the military or mainstream media outlets. Rather, they are impressions of the raw truth, without being spun in any which direction or filtered in any way. Though the audience of such a film should still find it difficult to grasp such violence, we come to understand that these war correspondents understand it better than anyone. Feeding off of the tactical information given by combatants, they must also try and see past the verbal data to assess the visual. And, as it seems from these interviews, its that visual data that’s impossible to erase from their conscience. The vestiges of the torture they’ve endured becomes clear as the interviewees speak of the events in retrospect, now out of harm’s way.
A journalist’s job is by no means an easy one. Their written, verbal, and visual pronouncements set them up as our punching bags for even the slightest bit of critique and disagreement. Yet without them, we wouldn’t understand the world that we live in. Between governments, armies, revolutionaries, corporations and civilians all acting as players in the “game” of conflict, war correspondents are the necessary link to spread as big of a picture possible through impartial evidence. It’s not the media corporations that guard this impartiality, but the individual’s dedication to journalistic integrity and to deliver an untainted story. Under Fire is an honest encounter of the damage that is done through this process of recording history.
To find out more about this incredible documentary, watch this review by Press TV: