Review: ‘Under Fire: Journalists in Combat’

A sobering series of conversations with reporters and photographers who have found themselves caught in physical and moral war zones, "Under Fire" reckons with its subject in straightforward but engrossingly tough-minded fashion.

A sobering series of conversations with reporters and photographers who have found themselves caught in physical and moral war zones, “Under Fire” reckons with its subject in straightforward but engrossingly tough-minded fashion. One emerges from writer-director Martyn Burke’s docu hard-pressed to think of a profession with a more uniquely harrowing set of occupational hazards, including post-traumatic stress disorder, the addictive thrill of life-or-death situations, and the essential callousness required to document the horrors of war. Following a limited run, the docu should settle comfortably into smallscreen showings.

Viewers unconvinced by the “war is a drug” doctrine set forth by Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” will find it amply corroborated by the self-admitted adrenaline junkies here, whose collective war-reporting experience spans an astounding number of overseas conflicts from Sarajevo and Chechnya to El Salvador and Libya (Tim Heatherington is one of the recently slain journos memorialized). The most affecting, self-lacerating interview comes courtesy of former Los Angeles Times correspondent Paul Watson, regretfully recalling his iconic photo of Staff Sgt. William Cleveland’s body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Polished talking-heads approach is punctuated by firsthand combat clips and excessive intertitles.

Under Fire: Journalists in Combat

U.S.-Canada

Production

A JUF Pictures production in association with Documentary, with the assistance of the Canadian Media Fund, with the participation of Rogers Documentary Fund, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and Ontario Media Development Corp. Produced by Martyn Burke, Anthony Feinstein. Executive producers, Laura Morton, Bruce Cowley. Directed, written by Martyn Burke.

Crew

Camera (color), Donald Purser; editor, Christopher McEnroe; music, Mark Korven. Reviewed on DVD, Pasadena, Calif., Nov. 11, 2011. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Finbarr O'Reilly, Jon Steele, Susan Ormiston, Ian Stewart, Chris Hedges, Christina Lamb, Anthony Loyd, Jeremy Bowen, Paul Watson.

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