It has been one week precisely since I have met with my Media Ethics class. It has taken me this long to even try to grapple with how I feel about our last class. Tonight we will have to discuss it so I figure I’d try to sort it out here.
Last week we watched the documentary, The War Photographer. I feel like I am a changed person. I am not sure it is in a good way.
The movie tells the story of James Nachtwey who is a professional war photographer. To say that the movie is shocking would be a profound understatement. The video was told of his life experiences as a war photographer through his own interview, interviews of those closest to him, live video footage and the still photography that he took. It starts out showing fairly benign interviews and then switches over to violent video footage without warning. It toggles back and forth like this throughout the entire movie. Thus, you are not prepared for the extreme violence when it is shown.
This is a form of violence I had not allowed myself to be exposed to before. I do not like violent movies or violence on the history channel – I pretty much shelter myself from it.
At the point that a man was bludgeoned to death by an angry mob on the street and his head was cut off with a dull knife I had to excuse myself. I had to run to the bathroom to vomit. Seriously. I threw up.
I walked around the halls of the school building for several long minutes before I could muster up the courage to go back to class. I stared at the wall for most of the remainder of the class period. When the movie was over, I was first out the door. I did not even say good-bye to my friends in the class. When I got to my car, I locked myself in and lost it. I cried so hard the entire way home. I slept with the TV on for the first two nights after class so that the laugh track on the nocturnal sit com re-runs would somehow ward away the images that I couldn’t seem to repress from my mind. They are there each time I close my eyes. I can’t suppress them.
I am intensely grateful for the job James Nachtwey does. He brings to us images of war that may not reconcile with what our media would have otherwise presented to us. It forces us to think about global issues differently. I admire this man. He is a man of such pure honesty and respect. The people he photographs willingly allow themselves to be photographed by him.
I was sickened after this movie and a bit irate. My rage was not focused. I was disgusted that these images were permanently imbedded in my mind; I was disgusted that these atrocities occur at the hands of my partners in the human race but I was also disgusted in myself.
I am an adult who is seeking a higher education about life, the world and my place in it, yet I cannot bear to watch this. How immature is that?
My good friend in class is from Sudan. She sat next to me during the film. I couldn’t bear to look at her. I was ashamed of how childlike my behavior was. What gave me the right to be upset by a MOVIE? She lives in a country in crisis. I felt like a spoiled American with a full belly, a bottle of fresh water and a banana in my backpack with a Starbucks coffee in my hand.
We are going to have to discuss this tonight in class.
I don’t really want to talk about it.