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War Photographer

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Genre  Documentary, War
Initial DVD release  November 18, 2003
Country  Switzerland
8/10 IMDb

Director  Christian Frei
War Photographer movie poster

Language  English, German and French
Release date  November 2001
Music director  Eleni Karaindrou, Arvo Part, David Darling
Cast  James Nachtwey (Photographer), Christiane Amanpour (Chief International Correspondent CNN), Hans-Hermann Klare (Foreign Editor STERN Magazine), Christiane Breustedt (Editor in Chief GEO SAISON Magazine), Des Wright (Cameraman REUTERS), Denis O'Neill (Jim's Best Friend)
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War photographer trailer 2001 480p

War Photographer is a documentary by Christian Frei about the photographer James Nachtwey. As well as telling the story of an iconic man in the field of war photography, the film addresses the broader scope of ideas common to all those involved in war journalism, as well as the issues that they cover.


War Photographer movie scenes

The documentary won a 2003 Peabody Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002 and an Emmy Award in 2004. It also won or was nominated for more than 40 other awards internationally.

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A clip from war photographer featuring james nachtwey

War journalism

One of the main themes of the documentary is the level to which a journalist should become involved in the events that they are there to document. James Nachtwey credits the intimacy of his photography to his emphasis on establishing a rapport with his subjects, often despite a significant language barrier. Des Wright, a cameraman with Reuters, describes the problem of being too far removed from what is happening. Discussing a video reel of President Suharto's resignation and a police crackdown on protestors, he notes: "[Some journalists] say, 'I'm sorry, I'm a journalist, I'm not a part of this.' And I say, but you are a part of it. I think a lot of people would be quite happy for that man to be killed so they can get the particular picture that they want."

The documentary uses footage filmed with a small "microcam" video camera mounted on Nachtwey's SLR cameras. This technique gives a sense of immediacy to the viewer, showing events from the perspective of the photographer. So for the first time in the history of documentary films about photographers, thanks to a small camera attached to James’ body, the director reflects a real look into the work of a photojournalist.

A photo is not just an image; it is a trace of reality, an experience captured, a moment. Photography is an art that gives importance to events and makes them worth remembering. It is about telling the reality; about showing what other people are not able to see, to make them aware of it through the images they receive from the media. Thus, when the picture serves as informing, we find ourselves facing at other art—photojournalism. As James Nachtwey states: “If everyone could be there to see for themselves the fear and the grief, just one time, then they would understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that happens to even one person, let alone thousands. But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there, to show them, to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are doing and pay attention to what is going on, to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference, to protest, and by the strength of that protest to make others protes

Events and locations depicted in the film

  • Post-war Kosovo
  • Poverty and riots in Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Ramallah, the West Bank
  • A sulfur mine at Ijen in East Java, Indonesia
  • New York City, New York, United States
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Thokoza, South Africa
  • Awards

  • 2003 Peabody Award
  • Nominated for an Academy Award, 2002
  • Nominated for an Emmy Award, 2004
  • Reception

    Edward Guthmann from the San Francisco Chronicle has emphasized that the film appeals to the spectators’ sense for compassion:

    Ken Fox has estimated the humanistic approach of the film and of the work of James Nachtwey:

    Similar Peter Rainer from the New York Magazine:


    War Photographer Wikipedia
    War Photographer IMDb War Photographer