The Oscar-nominated documentary film WAR PHOTOGRAPHER is a harrowing journey into the world of renowned photojournalist James Nachtwey. Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei fearlessly trails Nachtwey into the front lines of violence and human suffering in areas including Kosovo, Indonesia, and the West Bank. This noble and serene film eschews politics and events leading to war, and instead limits itself to Nachtwey, a soft-spoken man on a relentless quest to change the world through photography.
Unlike films such as HARRISON'S FLOWERS and UNDER FIRE which dramatize the experiences of American photographers at risk overseas, WAR PHOTOGRAPHER shows the real thing with detailed honesty. The film is best in its illustrations of chaotic and often awkward scrambles to safety amid senseless violence. The filmmakers use miniature video cameras mounted atop Nachtwey's still camera to create a you-are-there feeling that is often sickeningly real. There's no avoiding a keen sense of panic as clouds of tear gas completely obscure Nachtwey's vision, and he labors painfully to take a breath.
WAR PHOTOGRAPHER heroically grapples with the moral responsibility of journalists who make a living documenting other peoples' pain. Other journalists interviewed for this film (including CNN's Christiane Amanpour) express the same reservations. Nowhere is this more abundantly clear than when Nachtwey movingly recounts how he begged an angry mob to spare the life of an innocent victim. WAR PHOTOGRAPHER is an important, skillfully crafted film.