For Journalists In The Thick Of War
Marie Colvin, the foreign correspondent with The Sunday Times died on the job to show us the horrors of war and to bare the truth that Assad’s war is really on people – men, women and children – rather than armed militants. She was there for the truth. It’s a film that makes you come home and read her reports and see the videos and pictures, and realise what cowards we are.
I never thought of myself as a coward. I know many journalists and activists who work with unpredictable politicians (and their goons) who could turn violent at any time. Journalists who have been threatened on social media with rape and murder. And I know women who work with at risk children, children who live in so much poverty, and crime they need that intervention from outside agencies, they need rescuing. I know women who work with really under-privilged children and educate them in order to help, create self-confidence, give them an opportunity to blossom.
Compared to these brave men and women I know, my life is pathetic. Boring almost. I watch movies for a living, and teach cinema and communication theory and cutural studies to media students. The biggest fear I face daily is the fear of being sideswiped by a car when I’m in an autorickshaw. It’s a safe world.
That’s why A Private War was tough to watch. Not because she was so gutsy, going out there and reporting, asking tough questions to Tamil Tigers and all that, but watching her question herself, her motives for wanting to being there amid the horror of tragedy, that drive which borders on insanity almost, that was a tough watch.
Marie Colvin was driven by something else. And she did not walk into danger because her ‘back story’ as movie call it was a tragic one and she needed to ‘be a hero’. In fact Rosamund Pike who plays Marie Colvin in the film shows us that she was more human than the rest of us.
‘This is not a bra, this is a La Perla!’ she explains to her photographer, ‘Imagine wearing bad underthings when they pull out my body from the rubble somewhere…’
We’ve read Cosmo too, but this was so unexpected from someone covering war, that it showed us that she was still a woman underneath the flak jacket.
Her recurring nightmares, her denial about PTSD, her need to get back to conflict zones are all beautifully balanced in the film. There is a Hindi word that describes this. It is called, ‘Zid’. A cross between passion and obstinacy, between childishness and craziness, the word ‘drive’ does not come close to it. But you can experience it all in the film.
Of course the stories told in the film about the people whose lives are changed by conflict are just too real and you will want to avert your eyes away from the screen. Very few mainstream movies can do that to you. I was stunned and moved and shocked. But when I came back home, it made me look at Anderson Cooper’s full interview with her on CNN on YouTube. It made me read the reports she had written from the war zones. It made me realise that every day there are brave, undeniably brave journalists who risk their own lives to show us the true face of war happening somewhere else while we go about our routines unaware of tragedies around us.