Films about war crimes
National Bird: Drone Wars is the story of the United States’ secret program for drone strikes, conducted all around the world, told through three military whistle-blowers plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries. They decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences. Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident, but her journey also provides for peace and redemption. National Bird provides an insight into the United States’ secret drone program through the eyes of participants, veterans, and survivors, connecting their stories to images.
All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Legacy of I.F. Stone looks at an array of award-winning filmmakers who subscribed to I. F. Stone’s newsletter in their teens, revealing a new wave of independent, investigative, adversarial journalists following in Stone’s footsteps. Reflecting on his work during the era of McCarthyism, a chorus of independent journalists also reflect on today where giant media conglomerates are reluctant to investigate or criticise government policies—particularly on defence, security and intelligence issues. With government deception rampant, and intrusion of state surveillance into our private lives never before more egregious, independent journalists tell their story of being inspired by the iconoclastic Stone, whose fearless, independent reporting from 1953 to 1971 filled a tiny 4-page newsletter. Stone is little known today, but All Governments Lie reveals the profound influence he had on contemporary independent journalism.
This film makes use of court documents, diplomatic cables and testimony by business figures themselves, as one case of many, in which corporations and indeed governments side with warlords, as good for business, in the endless pursuit of profit. The story revolves around the civil war of Liberia in the 1990s, with the seeds for exploitation and destruction having been planted a century before by the United States, when formally enslaved peoples in Liberia in-turn set up a society of racism, greed and exploitation, exacerbated by western economic powers. Years later, with the presence of Firestone corporation coming to Liberia to exploit vast plantations of rubber for control over the ‘market,’ the company unfolds as a considerable catalyst for systemic terror, being the forefront for pushing for profits at all costs amongst a brutal civil war; colluding with warlords and corrupt governments in pursuit of this ruthless end. Unfurling as a case study in these methods, this film documents the case that is not so unique but a story amongst many—particularly throughout the so-called third-world—where corporate might and globalisation have extreme consequences…
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, amongst the ravaging of war, the United States has been secretly deploying drones to carry out assassinations throughout the Middle East. The drones are increasingly piloted by the likes of young computer gamers groomed by screen culture and computer games of war, where in many cases, the Pentagon is directly involved in the creation of such games as recruitment tools, actively working to lure young people proficient with technology into the new era of the military-industrial-complex. Drone unravels this complex phenomenon while travelling to places such as Waziristan, where innocent civilians, including children and rescue workers are routinely secretly killed, where families and communities ravaged by the drone strikes search for understanding, accountability and adjustment to the daily horrors. The film also takes a look at the young people sitting behind the screens of the new war machines, half a world away, that actually pull the trigger, asking what kind of world is being built in the rise of seemingly endless and lucrative war driven by technological escalation.
Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill into the hidden world of the United States’ covert wars and assassination programmes—from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. What begins as a relatively commonplace report on the cover-up of a murderous US night raid in a remote corner of Afghanistan, quickly turns into a global investigation of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—a top secret arm of the Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex. As Scahill digs deeper into the activities of JSOC, he is compelled to report on the growing chilling underworld of covert operations carried out across the globe at the behest of the United States government: Targeted killings of American citizens; secret drone strikes; outsourcing American kill lists to warlords, private corporations and paramilitaries. The list goes on. Dirty Wars is a sobering investigation and personal journey into the most important human rights story of our time.
Counter-Intelligence is a 5 part series that explores in-depth, the vast, sprawling and secret National Security State that operates throughout the United States—and indeed the world. The series examines the foundations of the Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex, charting through to the myriad consequences in today’s world where secret intelligence organisations continue to hijack governments, manipulate elections and commit heinous crimes against humanity—all under the cloak of “National Security”. In the wake of the continued revelations of the NSA PRISM program, this series is now more important than ever to provide a solid historical context to the workings of the rapacious and ever-expanding National Security State…
The Kill Team profiles four young American men, who referred to themselves as the “Kill Team,” that carried out a string of war crimes in 2010, during the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, systematically murdering Afghan citizens. The film focuses on Private Adam Winfield who attempted, with the help of his father, to alert the military to the murders his platoon was committing. His pleas went unheeded. Faced with threats to his life from superior officers and other members of the military, Winfield makes a split-second decision that changes his life forever. The Kill Team follows Winfield and his family through the wartime events and legal proceedings that follow, interspersed with interviews of the other soldiers involved, and video footage from Afghanistan, revealing first-hand revelations of a war culture rooted in hatred, social pressure, and sociopathy.
Over the past decade, the United States military has shifted the way it fights its wars, deploying more technological systems in the battlefield than human forces. Today there are more than 7,000 drones and 12,000 ground robots in use by all branches of the military. These systems mean less deaths for US troops, but increased killings and precision elsewhere for the United States war machine. With lethal drone strikes being carried out in secret by the CIA and occurring outside of officially declared war zones such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the secret use of robots and drones in this way evokes serious questions about the operations of the United States and what this means for the rest of the world as more and more autonomy is developed for these technologies.
When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, the gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry were promoted from selling black market movie theatre tickets to leading the most powerful death squad in North Sumatra. In The Act of Killing Anwar and his cohorts recount and gruesomely re-enact their experiences and some of their killings for the cameras, making horrific scenes depicting their memories and feelings about the killings. But as they begin to dramatise Anwar’s own nightmares, the scenes begin to take over as artforms, leading to confrontations of memories of historical reality. Can the horrific imagination succumb to moral catastrophe in this case? And if sociopaths are not reachable people anymore, the question becomes what we must do to stop them.
Just as mobile phones and wireless capability dramatically changed the way technology interacts with modern society, drones—or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’—are set to become the next major influence in technocratic life, directly impacting and seriously expanding the already extensive capabilities of surveillance. Rise Of The Machines takes a look at already developed drone technology and how governments, military and even civilians are rushing to adopt the gadgets which can be purchased off the shelf for just a few hundred dollars and controlled by already existing smart phones. So what will a world of drones look like? And what of the many, serious, unexplored implications on how society will function in a world of drones?
The Power Principle is a series of films examining the history of the United States and the building of its empire with particular emphasis on the last seventy years of United States foreign policy. The methods that make empire possible are also examined—the politics of fear, the rise of public relations, the ‘Mafia Principle’ and the reoccurring use of fabled enemies, contrasting the Soviet Union and the Cold War alongside the parallels of today with the “War On Terror”. Not only does The Power Principle tie together historical events to revive a common thread, the series may also encourage viewers to reconsider their understanding of historical events and the portrayal of them, showing how those in power play a role in manipulating the collective memory through generations.
Robot Wars visits companies in the United States that are producing robots for the military to disarm bombs, fly unmanned aircraft (drones), withstand repeated attacks and even choose targets and fire without any human intervention. The rapid development of autonomous robots and the use of them right now is surging ahead at a crazy rate, all with little regard to ethical and psychological questions, concerns about technological privilege and other obvious impacts. With military robots currently being operated using video game controllers, is the line being blurred between fantasy and reality?
The latest in the string of controversies as part of the United States’ ongoing “war on terror”, is the military’s growing reliance on “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” otherwise known as ‘drones’, evidenced by the international reaction to recent drone missile attacks along the border in Pakistan. The military is also deploying other technological advancements alongside, such as robots in the battlefield and drones that work in swarms. Is this just a big computer game? A new tech-driven arms race? It doesn’t end there though — drones are now creeping into use by police and the intelligence services as a surveillance tool, and even into commercial and civilian use…
Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields is an investigative two part series about the final weeks of the quarter-century-long civil war in Sri Lanka. The films are made and broadcast as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon faces growing criticism for refusing to launch an investigation into ‘credible allegations’ that Sri Lankan forces committed war crimes during the the bloody conflict with the rebel group, the Tamil Tigers. With disturbing and distressing descriptions and film of executions, atrocities and the shelling of civilians; the programmes show and investigate devastating video evidence of war crimes—some of the most horrific footage of war ever captured.
Filmed over three years in the war-zone of northern Uganda, Children of War follows a group of former child soldiers as they escape the battlefield, enter a rehabilitation centre, and undergo a process of trauma recovery and emotional healing. Having been abducted from their homes and schools, and forced to become fighters by the Lord’s Resistance Army—a militia led by self-proclaimed prophet and warlord Joseph Kony—the children struggle to confront and break through years of captivity, extreme religious indoctrination, and participation in war crimes with the help of a team of trauma counsellors. As fearless allies guide the children into new lives, Children of War illuminates a powerful and cathartic story of forgiveness and hope in the aftermath of horrific war.
The War You Don’t See traces the history of ‘embedded’ and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an ‘electronic battlefield’ in which journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims. But who is the real enemy?
Since 1945, by deed and by example, the US has overthrown 50 governments, including democracies, crushed some 30 liberation movements and supported tyrannies from Egypt to Guatemala. Bombing and war is as American as apple pie. Obama, having stacked his government with warmongers, Wall Street cronies and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, the 45th president is merely upholding tradition…
On 8th August 1945, the United States dropped its second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, three days after the bombing of Hiroshima. The city was a veritable apocalyptic vision, devastated by this new type of weapon. Nagasaki — The Horror Of Fat Man documents the memories of survivors, both Japanese civilians and Western Prisoners Of War, as they relate the morbid aftermath of the bombings, the United States occupation, and the segregation that still effects fallout victims to this day.
In 2004, during the invasion of Iraq, the public learned of systemic sexual abuse, torture, rape and even murder going on inside Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Photographs taken by the soldiers themselves were at the centre of the scandal, and seared public consciousness. Standard Operating Procedure sets out to examine the context of these photographs. Why were they taken? What was happening outside the frame? The Abu Ghraib photographs serve as both an expose and a coverup. An expose, because the photographs offer us a glimpse of the horror of Abu Ghraib; and a coverup because they convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything, that there was no need to look further…
Reaching into the Orwellian memory hole, War Made Easy exposes the some 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Using archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George Bush, this film reveals how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive governments — paying special attention to the parallels between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq…
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib examines the sexual abuse, torture, rape, and murder of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison at the hands of US military police in the fall of 2003. The film shows how the abuse was systemic of the military-intelligence complex, flawing the “bad apples” theory that was sprouted through the media at the time. By making reference to Stanley Milgrim’s obedience experiments of the 1960s, the film asks: How can ordinary people take these actions? And what orders came from the chain of command?
We is a visual essay exploring the politics of empire, war, corporate globalisation, imperialism and history; using the words of Indian author and political activist Arundhati Roy, from her speech Come September given in Santa Fe, New Mexico one year after the September 11th attacks—not long after the invasion of Afghanistan. The result is a mix of archive footage illustrating specific historical events throughout South America, the Middle East and elsewhere, in context with the September 11th attacks; placed alongside the themes of empire, global economics and a short history of neo-collonialism…
Produced while the invasion was in full swing, Iraq for Sale investigates some the many private contractors and consultants that were brought into to Iraq as part of the United States military machine. Four major contractors are profiled: Blackwater, K.B.R.-Halliburton, CACI and Titan, along with investigations of human rights violations, systemic misconduct, corruption, and profiteering. The film posits what damage is done to the ‘average citizen’ when corporations decide to wage war. For those in opposition to war and corporate power, the connection between the invasion of Iraq and the private corporations who profit from the fighting is plain to see. For those who still may not be so easily convinced, the film not only explores the questionable motivations of the corporate decision-makers whose wartime profiteering has affected the lives of countless soldiers and their families, not mention the lives of millions of civilians, but also the increasingly negative international reputation of the United States as a result.
The Road to Guantánamo is a docu-drama about the incarceration of three British citizens—otherwise known as the Tipton Three—who were captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and detained for more than two years by the United States in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. The three were held in mostly solitary confinement and without legal representation for that time, after being released in 2004 without charge. Based on interviews, The Road to Guantánamo reenacts their experience in the camp, depicting the use of torture techniques such as stress positions, and attempts by the United States Army and CIA interrogators to extract forced confessions of involvement with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
This film comprehensively documents the use of chemical weapons—particularly the use of incendiary bombs—along with hordes of other horrific indiscriminate violence against civilians and children by the United States military in the city of Fallujah during the invasion of Iraq in November 2004. The cases portrayed involve the use of white phosphorus and other substances similar to napalm, such as Mark-77, which constitute clearly defined war crimes involving chemical weapons. Interviews with ex-military personnel involved in the Fallujah offensive back up the case for the use of such weapons by the United States, while reporters stationed in Iraq discuss the government’s attempts to suppress the news by covert means.
In the wake of the attacks of September 11th 2001, the United States opened a prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The hundreds of prisoners detained there are not afforded prisoners of war status according to the Geneva Convention, they are labelled “unlawful combatants” and are held indefinitely and tortured with no right to a lawyer or a trial. Gitmo — The New Rules Of War cuts through the official political rhetoric surrounding Guantánamo to expose what really goes on at the United States central gulag in the ‘war on terror’.
In December 2001, David Hicks, an Australian citizen, was captured in Afghanistan and handed over to the United States military, where he was moved to Guantanamo Bay for “interrogation.” He has been held there ever since, not charged with any crime. Despite this, the United States labelled him an “unlawful combatant,” a legal fiction concocted by the United States in order for them to torture Hicks and many other people like him, in the name of fighting the so-called “War on Terror.” Many people, including Hicks, were kept in detention without charge for many years, denied a fair trial, and denied access to the United States’ legal system. So how did a 26 year old former-stockman from Adelaide end up in the United States’ torture chamber? Terry Hicks, David’s father, sets out to answer this question, as he traces his son’s journey from Adelaide to Japan to Kosovo, through Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he is captured in Taliban country.
Ghosts of Rwanda marks the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda—a state-sponsored massacre in which some 800,000 Rwandans were methodically hunted down and murdered, as the United Nations and other states refused to intervene. The film examines the social, political, and diplomatic failures that converged to enable the genocide to occur. Through interviews with key government officials, diplomats, soldiers, and survivors of the slaughter, Ghosts of Rwanda presents first-hand accounts of the genocide from those who lived it—the diplomats on the scene who thought they were building peace only to see their colleagues murdered; the Tutsi survivors who recount the horror of seeing their friends and family slaughtered by Hutu friends and co-workers; and the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda who were ordered not to intervene in the massacre happening all around them.
They brought us war in Iraq, the promotion of “American global leadership,” pre-emptive strikes; the “spreading of Democracy.” This is the Project for the New American Century. But what do the hawks in Washington have in store for the world now? The War Party investigates this group of beurocrats responsible for the Project for the New American Century, called the neo-conservatives. This interconnected, dispersed group are running the White House in concert of the Bush years and family dynasty. Is it surprising how little has changed?
The United States proudly self-identifies as the major purveyor of peace and democracy across the world. But does this perception of self match up to the actual policies and history of military actions throughout recent decades? Are the United States’ seemingly constant wars of aggression befitting to achieving peace? These are some of the central dichotomies addressed in this short film In Whose Interest? We see internal documentation of the US involvement in countries like Vietnam or Guatemala which indicate that the main factors motivating American foreign policy are clearly economic concerns. In Guatemala, the United States overthrows a democratically elected government to install a military-backed dictatorship that is suitable to the American United Fruit corporation. A similar pattern emerges in Vietnam, El Salvador and East Timor. Perhaps most oppressive yet is US policy in the Middle East, where the US provides Israel with more than $3 billion per year in military assistance—more aid than they give to the entire continent of Africa. We see how American policy is determined by the corporate sector, tightly linked to the state, which makes decisions in their own self-interest—in stark opposition to the rhetoric of democracy…
The Trials of Henry Kissinger examines the evidence of war crimes by Henry Kissinger during his time as the United States “National Security Advisor” and later Secretary of State for President Nixon and President Ford. Acting in the role of the prosecution, journalist Christopher Hitchens presents solid evidence of Kissinger’s complicity in a series of war crimes involving Indonesia, Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus, East Timor and many other countries…
In the aftermath of the events of September 11th, 2001; MIT linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky found himself called upon to provide much-needed analysis and historical perspective regarding this moment in American history. In the months following, Chomsky gave dozens of talks on four continents, conducted scores of media interviews, and published a book called ’9-11.’ In this film and in his book, Chomsky places the events of September 11 in the context of American foreign intervention throughout the postwar decades—in Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Beginning with the fundamental principle that any exercise of violence against civilian populations is terrorism—regardless of whether the perpetrator is a well-organized band of Muslim extremists or the most powerful nation-state in the world—Chomsky challenges the United States to apply the moral standards it demands of others to its own actions.
Between 1964 and 1973 the United States conducted a secret war in Laos — dropping over 2 million tons of bombs, making it the most heavily bombed country in history. Millions of ‘cluster bombs’ did not explode when dropped, leaving the country massively contaminated with “bombies” which are as dangerous now from when they fell over 30 years ago. Bombies documents unexploded cluster bombs through the personal experiences of a group of Laotians and foreigners who go about dismantling the bombs. These weapons are still a standard part of the United States military arsenal and were recently dropped in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq…
The Secret Government, as its title suggests, is essentially an investigation into the processes, plans, operations and persons responsible for systemic abuses of power at senior levels of the United States government during the 1980s. The film covers multiple covert operations and secret projects, but takes a particular focus on the Iran–Contra affair of 1986, where Ronald Regan secretly facilitated the illegal sale of arms to Iran—which was the subject of an arms embargo at the time—to support a right-wing terrorist group called “The Contras,” and also make obscene profits from the sale of such weapons. Transported to the political happenings of today, The Secret Government is a call to remember history, and see that mass profits from weapons dealing running covert/secret wars were a reality then, and now, as well as to reveal just how far institutionalised propaganda and obfuscation works to conceal these home truths, still generations later.
The Search For Truth In Wartime investigates the changing face of war reporting and the role of the media during wartime, in context with the Crimea through the two World Wars, to Vietnam and the Falklands. “What is the role of the media in wartime? Is it simply to record, or is it to explain? And from whose point of view—the military, the politicians or the victims?”
In 1978, three years after the end of the Vietnam War, film-maker John Pilger travels back to Vietnam to find out what had happened under the new regime. Do You Remember Vietnam? recounts numerous personal stories: talks with a young tour guide at a war crimes museum who had been imprisoned in the infamous US tiger cages; a former North Vietnamese soldier into the underground base where he spent 20 years crawling through tunnels undetected; and views from the streets in Hanoi, where the largest single aerial bombardment in history took place.