War Photographer (2001) Script

It seems too graphic and unemotional.

I would prefer those grieving people.

For this double page here?

Yes, for the big page. Okay.

There's already a great deal of misery in it!

I like this sad figure walking through the streets full of destruction...

Fits perfect!

And Goma! One million refugees! Thousands died and couldn't be buried in the volcanic soil. There were piles of corpses!

Right! The piles of corpses...

It'd be great! There are the piles!


That looks fantastic!

You think we should use this one? - I'd enlarge it.

This is also a terrific picture.

The corpses being dumped. Maybe we should put it here.

Have it enlarged. Okay, fine.

Can you tell that the corpses being dumped aren't in Africa?

You don't have to see the corpses...

You can substitute them with this.

Here you feel like you're being shown some scene in Africa.

It starts with Africa, and you think it's an African horror trip.

But his idea is worldwide horror.

It zooms in again... Then there's the head...

Then there's that poor guy. Looks terrific. - Okay.

Exactly. Then we'll have a look at it.

Comma... now it's shorter.

After the Berlin Wall fell, wars changed.

It was no longer nation against nation, but people against people.

Instead of high-tech weapons... rifles and machetes. James Nachtwey, the world's most famous war photographer, has portrayed these new conflicts and victims in a way nobody else ever could.

My son has arrived!

Oh, my son! Oh, my son!

Oh, you!

"Please, don't," I said.

"My brother is deaf and speechless."

But they threw him down from the truck, took his money and killed him.

They cut off my other brother's arm with a bread knife.

They tore my uncle's son from his arms, but he wouldn't let go.

So they shot him in the head, and the child fell on the ground.

They gave me 2 minutes time, and they held an automatic weapon at my neck.

They wanted money.


There are war photographers who are only able to endure the horror of what they've seen, experienced and escaped... like in Vietnam... by going with the soldiers to the same brothels and bars and drinking the same whisky.

Others have become cynical.

Jim is a remarkably uncynical person, which is all the more remarkable, because most people have seen a lot less misery and suffering.

Lonely because...

his experience sets him apart from his colleagues and others.

He has become a different person as a result of those 25 years.

While we talked about that horror in order to comprehend what we saw, the absolute inferno of people who were dead, dying and vomiting, never-ending lines of people waiting outside the first-aid tents, Jim said almost nothing.

Jim said hello. He talked about some organizational details, then he said, "I'm going to bed."

And while we needed beer to recover from what we'd seen that day, Jim had one or two glasses of water before going to bed. Then he got up early the next day to head out alone.

Good morning, Mister. Good morning.

For me, the early 80s were characterized by my move to New York.

I was a photo editor for GEO.

I'd worked for SPIEGEL before that, and I had an opportunity to take over the photography department at the New York office of STERN.

That was in 1982.

It was the first time that Nachtwey came to STERN's office with a portfolio, and that led to a friendship, a love affair.

Both of us had an idea what that New York situation was supposed to lead to.

Nachtwey wanted to make a name for himself.

He was very bright... and determined. His mind was focused

Like flight routes.

No winding roads.

There was one distinct, straight, narrow, stony path he had decided to take.

Of course, at times I wished it was a warmer, closer, more intense relationship.

But his work was of great importance.

I'll do it. I'll do it with my pictures.

I'll convince people with my pictures.

Nachtwey came back from Nicaragua.

He was relaxed and happy.

He brought me a necklace made of shells.

He put it around my neck, and I thought that was great.

I remember the first time I met him.

His hair was parted, his jeans were creased, his shirt was immaculate.

And amidst all that dust and chaos, stood this man I'd never seen before taking his pictures. He was in no hurry like the others.

He was somehow calm, as suddenly South African photographer Ken Oosterbroek was killed next to him.

Normally, two sorts of journalists are hit: the ones on their first assignment, and the ones who have been at it too long and think they're bulletproof.

Jim is in danger of seeing himself as bulletproof, in danger of pushing his luck once too often.

As someone who is quite reserved, he needs that kick, that adventure,

that flow of adrenalin and the fear of dying, in order to feel alive.

Jim is at his best in the most extreme situation.

That's it. He keeps on pushing those limits.


Tough, tough, tough.

It's also very difficult to talk to Nachtwey about the insane situations he has narrowly escaped.

It's excruciating the way some photographers and journalists never stop talking about what they've experienced.

With Nachtwey, however, you have to drag everything out of him.

You really have to beg him, and, even then, he tries to avoid making the impression that he's bragging, showing off.

When he returned from an assignment, and I wanted to grab him and say, "Tell me about it. How was it?"

No, first he had to develop the pictures and then look at them.

I don't know where he kept everything, or where he keeps it, because the photo material alone, the pictures, are only a fraction of what he has seen, felt, smelled and heard.

He has his own library of suffering in his head.

What were you thinking of? Don't you want to talk about it?

Allah is great!

I feel that James Nachtwey's pictures possess the precision of a war surgeon.

He hates to hear that. He doesn't want to be compared to a war surgeon, because everyone will then say, "Aha, a cold-hearted war surgeon."

He is unrelentless when dealing with people and situations.

This very old-fashioned, very unmodern characteristic makes him, at the same time, so untypical, so fascinating.

Do I make a living from other people's suffering?

Has their suffering and misery been... my ladder to success?

Do I exploit people?

Am I the bloodsucker? The vampire with the camera?

Thank you.