Produced, directed by Heiner Stadler. Screenplay, Stadler, Harry Gockeritz. Jan Loy Herbert Knaup
Maynard Wilhelm Peter Franke
Claire Meunier Ozay Fecht
Derek Forrester David Kehoe
The Maid Claude Channice
Souhal Hassan Farhat
Ndebele Jamal Hamdan
Gerd Malkowski Janek Starczewski
Aleksander Chmyr Mark Zak
U.N. Press Officer Calvin E. Burke
In “War Shots,” Heiner Stadler vividly portrays the lives of members of the international press corps in a war zone. Location filming in Lebanon gives this drama plenty of authenticity, so it’s a pity that the storyline lacks conviction. Pic could find its way around the fest circuit and on Eurotube nets.
Though set in the fictional North African country of El Irouane, the film clearly draws on war zones from Bosnia to Somalia in its vivid depiction of an urban civil war; Stadler and his crew have come up with a wholly convincing depiction of a shattered coastal city, where civilians crossing the road to obtain the necessities of life live in constant fear of snipers. The ruined buildings and roach-infested apartments provide a vivid backdrop to the story of a journalist who begins to question his own role in the conflict.
Jan Loy (Herbert Knaup) is a world-famous photographer who has recently won an award for a shot of an IRA driver at the moment he’s gunned down by British troops in Northern Ireland. Loy’s partner, journalist Maynard Wilhelm (Peter Franke), blames Loy, with some justification, for the man’s death.
Along with other members of the press corps, Loy and Wilhelm are holed up in a seedy hotel in a city where U.N. forces are trying, without much success, to keep the peace between violently opposed sides in a fratricidal conflict in which civilians are the greatest casualties. Loy dallies, in desultory fashion, with a maid (Claude Channice) who works in the hotel while Wilhelm attempts to get an interview with one of the key warlords involved in the conflict via a female intermediary (Claire Meunier).
But when Loy discovers that the brother of his regular driver is one of the snipers terrorizing the district, he begins to take a closer look at the personalities and allegiances involved in the conflict, even to the point of placing himself in the sniper’s position. What is, after all, the difference between a Leica and a Kalashnikov? asks the film. Loy’s motivations remain frustratingly obscure, which detracts from the immediacy of this otherwise potent drama. If nothing else, the film gives a most vivid depiction of life in a war zone.
Knaup’s stolid performance as Loy doesn’t help elicit empathy for the character, and the film’s strengths lie more in its re-creation of the world in which these journalists eke out a precarious existence than in the dramatic arc of its narrative. Visually, the film is a success; dramatically it leaves something to be desired.