Conflict journalism and its repercussions

So, my mom was here for the weekend (it was her first time visiting ever — so excited I finally got to show her around!), and we were sititng in the hotel room and decided to watch a convenient (yet ridiculously expensive) movie on the TV. We scrolled through the titles and came across one, “The Bang Bang Club”.


Now, I had heard about the real bang bang club – a quasi-club of photojournalists in Africa in the early 1990’s — when I was really into photojournalism in high school. This club included four men: Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek and Joao Silva. They also worked alongside other photojournalists like James Nachtwey. So, we watched the preview for the movie, and of course, it was a – reflecting the actions of the club during the volatile 90’s in South Africa. I’ve always been fascinated with war photography.

I mean, seriously, how cool do they look?

The first thing that ever got me into journalism was an exhibit in New York City of famous war photographer Robert Capa’s photos. They entranced me and pulled me into wanting to do the same thing. Now, I’ve been branching out into the written side of journalism, but as soon as I saw this movie preview, my inner photojournalist was pulsing and getting pumped up. I almost fell off the bed when the preview alluded to a moment in the film where they reenact a moment where Kevin Carter takes his Pulitzer-winning photo of a starved African girl being stalked by a vulture:

Kevin Carter's controversial Pulitzer Prize winning photo.

Now, I’m not about to review the film. It had its failures and its great moments, and I think it overdramatized some parts, but overall, it was a great summary of what these photographers went through. Over time, the mental status of these guys dwindled into a terrible black hole, ending with one suicide (Kevin Carter) and the injury of another (Greg Marinovich). It got me so excited and reinforced my love for journalism that had recently cooled down lately. I read a book, War, by war photographer Sebastian Junger, recently and it also invigorated me and made me fascinated with documenting war almost as successfully as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried did several years ago.

What was interesting about watching this movie was beyond my excitement for conflict journalism and journalism in general. It was my reaction to the gruesome images portrayed in the film. Watching it with my mom, I knew it would be very hard for her to watch. She said she slept terribly the same night after thinking of the movie. However, I was not affected by it. Now, that’s not to say that it didn’t make me emotional. It definitely did. But it affected me in a way that’s different from, I suppose, regular movie-watchers. I almost felt like I was one of the journalists, or an aspiring one, while my mother seemed to be an onlooker, as I expect many viewers felt. The movie pumped me up and made me emotional and excited me all at the same time. It’s very true to say that there are MANY graphic scenes in the movie, and maybe it’s because I’ve seen many gruesome journalistic images or maybe it’s because I’ve honed my ability to separate my journalist side from my emotional, human-oriented side (that sounds bad, but it’s hard to describe), but I reacted to the movie in a very different way. If anything, it makes me want to cover these issues even more. They’re filled with tragedy, sadness, horror and unbearable inhumane acts, but someone has to tell the world about it. And this movie made me want to be that person. I’ll just be sure to bring a bullet-proof vest.

But honestly, this movie was beautiful in its ability to so powerfully impact me. It’s moments like this where I realize that I’m doing what I love.