Starring: Don McCullin, Harold Evans, Michael Parkinson
You may like this if you liked: 5 Broken Cameras (Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, 2011), The War You Don’t See (Alan Lowery and John Pilger, 2010), The War on Democracy (Pilger et al, 2007)
A documentary charting the life of war photographer Don McCullin whose photos of many of the worlds conflicts featured prominently in The Observer and The Sunday Times. Featuring a current day interview with the man himself, intertwined with archive footage of the conflicts he covered and the photos he produced at the time.
I must confess I only stumbled across this riveting and powerful but relatively unknown documentary because my local independent cinema was showing it. McCullin did actually receive a BAFTA nomination for best feature length documentary and this was fully justified. I cannot recommend this film enough; it is truly fascinating and extremely well put together that the 90 minutes of its running time just fly by. Not only is this superbly edited, but the music also enhances the mood and atmosphere.
Don McCullin himself is uncomfortable with the title of ‘war photographer’ and throughout his interview he gives fascinating accounts of his life and what effect witnessing the horrifying experiences that he did affected him. This documentary also serves as an insightful documentary into some of the conflicts of the second half of the twentieth century.
McCullin’s firsthand accounts of what he witnessed gives harrowing but fascinating insights into scenes some of us can only imagine. As with all wars, the main victims are those innocent civilians stuck in the middle and McCullin’s descriptions of such people really put life into perspective and the luxuries that we all take for granted. This is at times uncomfortable and sobering viewing, but only due to the raw honesty of McCullin’s stories and photos. McCullin himself also emerges as not only a fascinating man, but a man of integrity and honesty. We could only imaging what witnessing some of the horrific events that he did would do to us psychologically and it is genuinely fascinating as he reveals what it did to him. This film also serves as a reminder to an irretrievable bygone era of journalism and does make us pose some questions about the integrity and honesty of 21st century journalism, especially photojournalism. As Don McCullin himself says: “Photography is the truth if it’s being handled by a truthful person.”
This is an extremely honest and genuinely powerful documentary that not only provides insight into a fascinating man, but also the horrifying truth about the effects war can have on nations and innocent civilians. This is unforgettable and devastating, and though not an easy watch at times, one I would thoroughly recommend.