War Feels Like War @18.30 – Article by Cole Diment

War Feels Like War takes us on a brief but powerful journey through the life of journalists covering the Iraq War. Placed in these war zones by state sanctioned media – in the early stages of the film we are told that “Independent journalists are not welcome here” – the journalists we follow negotiate the borders between their job security, the capitalist imperative of media-image production and their sanity. What emerges in regards to the journalist’s image is a complex tapestry of interlocking and contradicting positions; they can be seen as both victim and perpetrator within, respectively, the micro and macro scales of war. 

Principally, War Feels Like War lays bare the production of media-images in wartime. All too often news images attempt to attain – maybe in their journalistic naivety of the assuredness of truth in the photographic image – to fact. When we are presented with news images the tone is one of objectivity, of empirical finding and relay of precise happening. War Feels Like War disconceals this notion. Within the Iraq context no independent journalists are allowed access to the frontline. Thus, state sanctioned and capital back media images bent with Neo-lib ideology may proliferate. We meet a Norwegian journalist who himself admits the cynicism of their profession; with the imperative of money and ensuing sensationalism their job looks less and less like objective fact finders and more like war profiteering. Moments of desperation and woe for Iraqi and Kuwaiti people provide their lucrative plunder. Moreover, these images the journalists capture reproduce Western imperialist images of brown, Asian and Middle Eastern people. That all the journalists are of white, European origin, working for white and European originated states, proves who controls these images. 

Within this pertinent critique of the media machine in wartime, the sanity and ethical position of the wartime journalist is probed. The film makes sure to allow an array of feelings about the journalists to be communicated, both negative and positive. Sympathy is produced for the journalist’s tough position. They are shown to be exploited by the media companies in order to obtain these images, trekking into war zones and risking their lives. Many suffer from a crisis of conscience, questioning their reaction to the horror of war and their position as active bystanders. The question of various forms of trauma for the journalists, maybe PTSD, arise from this concoction. Though victimised the journalists are also shown to be perpetrators of ethically dubious acts. Indeed some journalists seem to lack ethical integrity altogether. One Getty Images photographer suggests “I’m ready to kill my mother for a better picture”. It remains unclear the exact moral position these journalists occupy.

Maybe the lack of clarity, the lack of precision, aids our understanding of war. Rather than a rigid, pre-determined binary of aggressor and victim we have a nuanced deconstruction of that binary impulse. Instead of being perpetrator or victim the journalists must be seen as both. There is a need of this in order to attempt nullify the nationalistic, leading to fascistic, tendency to carve the world into us and them. Thus instead of two opposing camps we have blurred lines and in these blurred lines we may start to comprehend the illogicality, the confounding nature of war. 

You can catch War Feels Like War in the Vintage Mobile Cinema at 18.30.

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