sff 2016 day 7

Only one movie tonight as it didn’t start til after 8, there was time to go home and have dinner at a reasonable time at the actual dinner table, luxury :-) Tonight’s film, National Bird, was a doco focusing on the American military’s drone programme told through 3 Americans formerly involved in the programme and interviews with Afghani survivors. With Wim Wenders and Errol Morris on board as executive producers, I figured this had the hallmarks of a good documentary and I wasn’t disappointed. While there were no surprises, the doco brought together the military side of drone technology, tied it with death of civilians, and raised yet more failures of the American military to deal with post traumatic stress in its combatants. One of the American analysts recounted arguing with the people responsible for shooting the missiles, and having to talk them out of killing as they were so trigger happy. Unsurprisingly, using autonomous drones as weapons turned a war zone into little more than a video game but with lower resolution.

A key episode in the film revolved around the “accidental” killing of 23 Afghani family members including children. One of the film’s strengths was going to Afghanistan and interviewing the survivors of that attack, and see some of them deal with amputated limbs and the memories of what happened and their failed attempts to signal to the drones to stop. While listening to the pain of the parents, it was sad to watch their young son remove his prosthetic leg and expose the remaining stump. The US military “promised” this wouldn’t happen again but of course it did. The American analysts are in a tricky position and unable to see regular therapists and have to seek out counsellors with sufficient security clearance. Another analyst has had their house raided on suspicion of espionage and expects to be charged any day simply for criticising the programme. A strong, powerful film about the human effects of modern warfare.

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