Twenty-three-year-old Amy Eldon is haunted by the memory of her older brother Dan, who was killed in Mogadishu, Somalia after the bombing of a house where it was believed that General Farah Aidid was hiding. She cannot understand why he chose an occupation that has averaged one death per week for the last ten years. In her quest for understanding, Amy interviews 10 photojournalists and war correspondents to ask the questions she can no longer ask her brother.
In London, home to many of the worlds photojournalists and war correspondents, Amy interviews photographers Des Wright and Carlos Mavroleon, who offer her insights and realities behind popular misconceptions. When Amy comments that we dont hear much about Somalia now that the Marines are not there, Mavroleon responds by saying, "It wasnt because the Marines were there [that you knew what was happening]; it was because we were there." Wright dispels the myth of the "cowboy" photographer, telling Amy that most journalists in war zones are very careful not to take unnecessary risks. Mavroleon says that it often makes him feel like a vulture to photograph suffering victims, but there is the need to tell the story to the world and to try to make a difference.
Martin Bell, a distinguished BBC correspondent through 11 wars, discusses his "journalism of attachment." One day when sitting on a hill overlooking Sarajevo with some UN observers, Bell concludes that journalists work in Bosnia was futile: "Theyre watching the explosions, Im counting the explosions, and its made no difference at all."
In contrast, CNNs Christiane Amanpour is proud of the work she and others did in Bosnia. She believes they did their job they told the story with the result that "in two weeks, the allieds stopped the war." Amanpour also disagrees with Bells journalism of attachment and finds it sometimes appropriate to be detached. She deals with her horror at the events by "putting that energy into telling the story." British photographer Don McCullin was not able to do that, and he feels both physically and emotionally wounded by the wars he covered. He disputes the notion of detachment, saying, "Theres no way you can hide behind the camera because when youre looking through the camera you feel even closer to the person youre photographing ."
Other journalists interviewed include:
Shafi, a cameraman since 1982, wanted to go to Africa to help the innocent victims trapped in the war. He believed the world needed to see their suffering. Shafi returns with Amy to Mogadishu to show her where he died and to tell her the whole story. Ironically, Dan was packed and ready to leave the city his replacement had arrived when they received word of the nearby bombing. A convoy of journalists went to see and report, with the Reuters car in the lead. Upon arrival, Shafi and Dan left the vehicle and went to investigate. When someone threw a stone, Dan called to Shafi, "Lets get out of here." Shafi was attacked and beaten, but he managed to get away. The other four journalists from their vehicle, including Dan and his replacement, were stoned to death.
Dying to Tell the Story is filled with film clips and quotes of Dan at work in Africa. His love of his work and the people of Somalia are evident throughout the documentary. Through her journey, Amy finds peace in a better understanding of the importance of her brothers work. She concludes, "I believe more than ever that what we do matters."
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