Coming to theatres today, Friday, November 11: NATIONAL BIRD
Sonia Kennebeck’s look at the consequences of whistleblowing on the US drone program had its world premiere at Berlin this year. Its festival circuit also included Tribeca, San Francisco, Sheffield, Sydney, Melbourne, Camden, Hamburg, and Zurich, among others.
Kennebeck profiles three individuals directly involved with the military drone program. Daniel, who finds himself the subject of an FBI raid, is an anti-establishment peace activist who has some undisclosed connection to drones. Lisa, a former drone technical expert who helped identify targets, is haunted by the collateral damage of her work, visiting Afghanistan to see the consequences on innocent civilians of so-called surgical precision strikes. Finally, Heather, a former analyst, tasked with deciphering often-unclear drone imagery to determine if someone is a child or a combatant, suffers from PTSD, but must fight to get treatment since she was not in physical combat. Because of the potential of being charged as traitors under the 1917 Espionage Act, Kennebeck’s subjects are often constrained from revealing too much about what they know or even what their roles specifically are, in some ways dulling the potential impact of the film, but in other ways lending it an ominous undertone that suits the subject matter, and sparking necessary questions from the viewer about the human costs of this modern form of combat.