We have posted a selection of visual documentary materials on war and terror. It is not a comprehensive list of all available films. Our listing is in part limited by the holdings at RIT (although continuously expanding) and films that we have successfully used in our classrooms. We would very much appreciate any suggestions for additional films on war and terror that we could add to this site.
Discusses the culture of the people of New Guinea. It emphasizes the role of war and death in their lives. Film by anthropologist Robert Gardner.
The story of indigenous women, and Japanese and Korean women (brought to Papua New Guinea by Japan) as “military commodities” during the Japanese World War II Papua New Guinea campaign from 1942-1945. During World War II, 140,000 Japanese troops may have died in Papua New Guinea. Only 11,000 returned to Japan. Considered the "Forgotten War," neither the war nor its veterans received public recognition in Japan. But the film investigates another unacknowledged tragedy of that campaign: the army's mistreatment of New Guinean women and "comfort girls," military prostitutes conscripted believing they would clean and cook. Since women, except nurses, had no official military status, 90,000 comfort girls were shipped to battle sites as "military commodities," without names or identities, without records to be traced by. A Film by Noriko Sekiguchi.
Demi Moore stars as Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil, the first female candidate for the U.S. Navy SEAL unit, a clandestine strike force drawn from the crème de la crème of the combined services--an opportunity provided her by the political maneuvering of Senator Lillian de Haven (Anne Bancroft). To make the grade, Jordan has to survive a grueling selection process in which 60 percent of all candidates wash out. Enigmatic Master Chief John Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen) runs the brutal training program that involves 20-hour days of running, marching, and crawling through obstacle courses under the worst weather conditions while carrying landing rafts--not to mention eating out of a garbage can during breaks. Along with the best of the men, the lean, mean, shaven-headed Jordan handles the punishment, including a bizarrely motivated beating from her drill sergeant. The top brass, confident that a woman would quickly drop out, becomes concerned as Jordan's ability to handle SEAL training becomes evident. Soon she must contend with trumped-up charges that she's fraternizing with women, and the senator begins receiving threats that military bases in her state may have to be closed. Director Ridley Scott.
During the Vietnam war, a girl is taken from her village by five American soldiers. Four of the soldiers rape her, but the fifth refuses. The young girl is killed. The fifth soldier is determined that justice will be done. The film is more about the realities of war, rather than this single event.
Set in Japan during the 1870s, "The Last Samurai" tells the story of Capt. Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), an American military officer hired by the Emperor of Japan to train the country's first army in the art of modern warfare. As the government attempts to eradicate the ancient Samurai warrior class in preparation for more Westernized and trade-friendly policies, Algren finds himself unexpectedly affected by his encounters with the Samurai, which places him at the center of a struggle between two eras and two worlds, with only his own sense of honor to guide him.
Soviet military photographer and cameraman Alexander Vorontsov documents the visual traces of Nazi genocide. Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Germans. A complex of camps, Auschwitz included a concentration, extermination, and forced-labor camp. It was located 37 miles west of Krakow (Cracow), near the prewar German-Polish border. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated more than 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were mostly ill and dying. It is estimated that at minimum 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered. On the afternoon of January 27, 1945, cameraman Alexander Vorontsov joined Russian troops to record the liberation of a labor camp. It shows the Auschwitz site immediately after the arrival of soldiers from the Red Army First Ukrainian Front, liberated prisoners, the corpses of victims, and Soviets collecting evidence of Nazi crimes. Some of this footage was used as evidence during the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals. The footage is interwoven with an interview with Aleksander Vorontzov, a Soviet cameraman who accompanied the Red Army and shot most of this material. A commentary describing the selection and extermination process, medical experiments, and the everyday life of prisoners in Auschwitz accompanies the original images. Director Irmgard von zur Mühlen worked with Vorontsov to sort through unreleased footage he shot on that historic day, compiling the images into this documentary. The camera pans across mountains of personal possessions confiscated from the prisoners -- nearly half a million suits and dresses and tens of thousands of eyeglasses were among the hoarded goods. The gas chambers, the portable gallows, the warehouse that held countless bags of human hair for making socks, and the emaciated faces and bodies of silent survivors. Director Irmgard von zur Mühlen.
Produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Combines historical narrative with accounts of ordinary people caught up in the Nazis' reign of terror.
Daniele Lacourse and Yvan Patry, dirs. New York: First Run/Icarus Films. Video jacket: 800,00 Tutsi (and some Hutu) were massacred in Rwanda beginning in April 1994 under the eyes of UN peacekeepers. The film follows several Rwandans before, during and after the genocide. "Part 1: 'Blood flowed like a river': Explores the genesis of the genocide in two key regions of Rwanda: Kibuye and the Bugesera, where 'blood was flowing like a river' and 'Rwandans will never again be the same'. Part 2: 'We were cowards': Examines how and why the international community abandoned Rwandans to their killers. Focusing on the largest massacre in Kigali and featuring unique footage shot by a UN peacekeeper, this documentary looks at the experiences of UN soldiers who pulled out of Kigali, and of the victims who were left behind'. Part 3: 'We feel betrayed': Following the genocide, the Hutu majority is subjected to crimes perpetrated this time by the new Rwandan government led by Tutsi extremists. This final part records the search for justice in a land where reconciliation is still a long way off." Opening lines: "On April 6, 1994, as Hutu President Habyarimana was killed, the massacres began. 800,000 people, most from the Tutsi minority as well as opponents from the Hutu majority, were killed in 3 months."
Ten years ago some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda--and in an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In only three months, one million people were brutally murdered. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages (Amazon.com).
The world's youngest citizen has just died at 18, and humankind is facing the likelihood of its own extinction. Set in and around a dystopian London fractious with violence and warring nationalistic sects, Children of Men follows the unexpected discovery of a lone pregnant woman and the desperate journey to deliver her to safety and restore faith for a future beyond those presently on Earth. (Written by Production, imdb.com)
Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) is a reporter who was born in Afghanistan, but fled with her family to Canada when she was a child. However, her sister wasn't so lucky; she lost her legs to a land mine while young, and when Nafas and her family left the country, her sister was accidentally left behind. Nafas receives a letter from her sister announcing that she's decided to commit suicide during the final eclipse before the dawn of the 21st century; desperate to spare her sister's life, Nafas makes haste to Afghanistan, where she joins a caravan of refugees who, for a variety of reasons, are returning to the war-torn nation. As Nafas searches for her sister, she soon gets a clear and disturbing portrait of the toll the Taliban regime has taken upon its people. (Written by Ørnås, imdb.com)
Lost Boys of Sudan is a feature-length documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa's cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia (Amazon.com).
We Are Refugees takes you inside the lives and minds of two of Tibet’s newest Refugees as they adjust to life in exile (Global Griot Productions).
Except for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaigns, the extensive combat operations in the Middle East during World War I have been largely overlooked in documentary programs. Given the historical significance of the Ottoman Empire's demise in 1918, and the ongoing importance of Middle Eastern oil reserves to Western economies, a close study of this conflict provides two important lessons: 1. The Treaty of Versailles, agreed to by the Western Powers in 1919, paved the way for military and political chaos in the Middle East, which continues to this very day. 2. Oil reserves in the Middle East became an important strategic concern for Western Powers, helping to justify their economic, diplomatic and military interference in the region. After the end of World War I, most of the Ottoman Empire was carved up into "spheres of influence", controlled mostly by the British and French. The remaining territories became the modern state of Turkey in 1923 - after a five-year struggle by Turkish nationalists against Western domination. With little regard for cultural, historical, religious and demographic considerations, the West sponsored the creation of several new nations: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Thus, a "tinderbox" was built from Western greed, igniting a multitude of wars, revolts, coups and military occupations that truly have made the defeat of the Ottoman Empire little more than a hollow victory. (Written by Inecom Entertainment Company, imdb.com)
Set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in 1990's Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond is the story of Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) - an ex Mercenary from Zimbabwe - and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) - a Mende fisherman. Both men are African, but their histories as different as any can be, until their fates become joined in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond that can transform their lives. While in prison for smuggling, Archer learns that Solomon - who was taken from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields - has found and hidden the extraordinary rough stone. With the help of Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist whose idealism is tempered by a deepening connection with Archer, the two men embark on a trek through rebel territory, a journey that could save Solomon's family and give Archer the second chance he thought he would never have. (Written by Production, IMDb.com)
Hosted by John Dalla Costa, renowned author, global ethicist and theologian, FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS explores the steadily expanding division between the "haves" and the "have nots", an urgent international reality in which the poorest nations of the Southern Hemisphere owe more than $485 billion to their lenders in the North. Dalla Costa says "Globalization is not simply an economic issue but one that requires our ethical imagination." (BullFrog Films).
A special report by Australian journalist John Pilger, who investigates the realities of globalization. The film looks at the new rulers of the world -- the great multinationals and the governments and institutions that back them -- the IMF and the World Bank. Under IMF rules, millions of people throughout the world lose their jobs and livelihood. The reality behind much of modern shopping and the famous brands is a sweatshop economy, which is being duplicated in country after country. In order to examine the true effects of globalization, Pilger turns the spotlight on Indonesia, a country described by the World Bank as a model pupil until its globalized economy collapsed in 1998. The film examines the use of sweatshop factories by famous brand names, and asks some penetrating questions. Who are the real beneficiaries of the globalized economy? Who really rules the world now? Is it governments or a handful of huge companies? The Ford Motor Company alone is bigger than the economy of South Africa. Enormously rich men, like Bill Gates, have a wealth greater than all of Africa. Pilger goes behind the hype of the new global economy and reveals that the divisions between the rich and poor have never been greater -- two thirds of the world's children live in poverty -- and the gulf is widening like never before. Directed by Alan Lowery; Produced by Carlton International Media Ltd; Produced, Written and Presented by John Pilger.
Syriana is a thriller of corruption and power related to the oil industry that tells four parallel stories: the CIA agent Bob Barnes (George Clooney) with great experience in Middle East that falls in disgrace after an unsuccessful mission dealing missiles in Lebanese Republic; the investigation of the attorney Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) related to the merger of two American oil companies, Connex and Killen; the traumatic association of the energy analyst Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) with the son of a powerful emir of Iran; and the social drama of the Pakistani immigrant worker Wasim Khan (Mazhar Munir) that is fired by the oil company. (Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, imdb.com)
John Pilger and David Munro examine the policy of First World banks agreeing loans with Third World countries, which are then unable to meet the crippling interest charges. It is, according to Pilger, a “silent war” with unseen victims. Won Geneva International TV Award at the North-South Media Encounters event, Geneva, 1993; Gold Medal in the 'Best Documentary Production category' of the International Television Movie Festival, Mount Freedom, New Jersey 1993; Gold Award in the 'Political/International Issues category' at WorldFest-Houston (Houston International Film & Video Festival), 1993; Silver Hugo Award in the 'Documentary - Social/Political category' of the 29th Chicago International Film Festival, 1993.
An examination of the continued secret support given by Western governments to the Khmer Rouge.
John Pilger and David Munro look behind the political rhetoric and discover the world of international arms dealing. Won a Bronze Apple in the category of 'Domestic and International Concerns', National Educational Film & Video Festival, Oakland, California, 1995; Certificate of Honourable Mention in the 'International Relations' category, The Chris Awards (Columbus International Film Festival), Worthington, Ohio, 1995.
In the 80s in Little Odessa, the Ukrainian immigrant Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) decides to change his economical life and becomes an arm dealer with his brother Vitaly Orlov (Jared Leto). His business of gunrunner supplying illegal weapons in disturbed areas of the planet increases with the end of the Cold War, and Yuri bribes a Russian general to sell most of his arsenal. Meanwhile, he becomes a millionaire and uses his money to seduce the beautiful Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan) and they get married, having a son. The detective Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke) chases Yuri trying to put him in jail, but in the end he understands that Yuri is a necessary evil for the interest of his nation. (IMDb.com, written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Directed by Steve Connelly and John Pilger. Award-winning journalist John Pilger investigates the discrepancies between American and British claims for the 'war on terror' and the facts on the ground as he finds them in Afghanistan and Washington, DC. In 2001, as the bombs began to drop, George W. Bush promised Afghanistan "the generosity of America and its allies". Now, the familiar old warlords are regaining power, religious fundamentalism is renewing its grip and military skirmishes continue routinely. In "liberated" Afghanistan, America has its military base and pipeline access, while the people have the warlords who are, says one woman, "in many ways worse than the Taliban". In Washington, Pilger conducts a series of remarkable interviews with William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and leading Administration officials such as Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. These people, and the other architects of the Project for the New American Century, were dismissed as 'the crazies' by the first Bush Administration in the early 90s when they first presented their ideas for pre-emptive strikes and world domination. Pilger also interviews presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, and former intelligence officers, all the while raising searching questions about the real motives for the 'war on terror'. While President Bush refers to the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq as two 'great victories', Pilger asks the question - victories over whom, and for what purpose? Pilger describes Afghanistan as a country "more devastated than anything I have seen since Pol Pot's Cambodia". He finds that Al-Qaida has not been defeated and that the Taliban is re-emerging. And of the "victory" in Iraq, he asks: "Is this Bush's Vietnam?"
Four years ago on May 1, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln wearing a flight suit and delivered a speech in front of a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner. He was hailed by media stars as a "breathtaking" example of presidential leadership in toppling Saddam Hussein. Despite profound questions over the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction and the increasing violence in Baghdad, many in the press confirmed the White House's claim that the war was won. MSNBC's Chris Matthews declared, "We're all neo-cons now;" NPR's Bob Edwards said, "The war in Iraq is essentially over;" and Fortune magazine's Jeff Birnbaum said, "It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context." How did the mainstream press get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein to 9-11 continue to go largely unreported? "What the conservative media did was easy to fathom; they had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked. How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored," says Moyers. "How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?" http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/btw/watch.html
Our news is sanitized to prevent images of the destruction and suffering created by the U.S. occupation of Iraq from entering our reality. BBC Channel 4 Investigates. Images of Iraq dominate our TV news bulletins every night but in this film, award-winning journalist Jon Snow questions whether these reports are sugar-coating the bloody reality of war under the US-led occupation. He shows the footage used by TV news broadcasts, and compares it with the devastatingly powerful uncensored footage of the aftermath of the carnage that is becoming a part of the fabric of life in Iraq. Producer and Director: Christian Trumble; Exec Prod: Stephen Phelps; Prod Co: Zenith Entertainment Ltd - 2006
Film produced and directed by independent journalist and former network producer Danny Schechter. An indictment of the role media played in promoting and misreporting the war on Iraq. It is an analysis of the failures of journalism and the collusion of media companies with the Bush Administration. A comprehensive, updated and insider look at the media complicity that Schechter argues "made the war possible." According to Danny Schechter: "The government orchestrated the war while the media marketed it.” There were two wars going on in Iraq - one was fought with armies of soldiers, bombs, and a fearsome military force. The other was fought alongside it with cameras, satellites, armies of journalists, and propaganda techniques. One war was rationalized as an effort to find and remove WMDs - Weapons of Mass Destruction; the other was carried out by even more powerful WMDs, Weapons of Mass Deception. A Global Vision Production.
An Italian documentary by journalists Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta. Broadcast on the Italian state television network RAI news 24. Using filmed and photographic evidence, eyewitness accounts, physicians, international journalists, and the direct testimony of American soldiers who took part in the attacks, the documentary catalogues the U.S. military use of white phosphorous shells and a new, "improved" form of napalm that turned human beings into "caramelized" fossils, with their skin dissolved and turned to leather on their bones. Produced by Italian state broadcaster RAI TV, the documentary charges U.S. warplanes illegally dropped white phosphorus incendiary bombs (chemical weapons) on civilian populations.
Produced by Canadian television journalist Barry Zweiker: outlines the publicly available evidence that the first Bush administration orchestrated an elaborate conspiracy to gain support for the first Gulf War.
By John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton. From the non-profit Center for Media & Democracy.
A documentary about the work of photographer James Nachtwey, whose camera has captured much of the horror in the world during the past twenty years. Swiss director and producer Christian Frei followed James Nachtwey for two years into the wars in Indonesia, Kosovo, Palestine. Scenes shot in Kosovo, The Balkans (June 1999), Jakarta, Indonesia (May/June 1999), Ramallah, Palestine (October/November 2000), Kawah Ijen, A Sulfur Mine in East Java, Indonesia (October 1999) and in New York City and Hamburg. “It is both fascinating and disquieting to watch Nachtwey at work. Seeing him confront a broken painting on the ground in Kosovo, one sees him trying different angles and compositions in an effort to tell his story. Then, he is literally in the faces of people enduring the most appalling grief. From the hysterical women awaiting a loved one's disinterment to a man grieving over a mass grave, Nachtwey comes within a few feet of his subjects. It is made clear that this is done with their consent, but the seeming sense of violation is palpable. Yet by capturing them at their moments of greatest anguish, Nachtwey's subjects allow him to portray the real the cost of war.” Christian Frei used special micro-cameras attached to James Nachtwey's photo-camera. “Special video micro-cameras are attached to Nachtwey's still camera. We hear every breath of the photographer. We participate in the act of shooting war photos. And for the first time in the history of movies about photographers, this technique allows us the most intimate insight into the work of a concerned photojournalist.” Film by Christian Frei.
Two-hour documentary on WWII Combat Photographers in Europe and the Pacific theater of war. Contains rare archive footage of never released for public viewing.
Distributed by PBS. Combines historical narrative with accounts of ordinary people caught up in the Nazis' reign of terror.
Filmed and directed by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain. In Spanish with English subtitles. Hugo Chavez elected president of Venezuela in 1998, is a colorful, unpredictable folk hero, beloved by his nation's working class and a tough-as-nails, quixotic opponent to the power structure that would see him deposed. Two independent filmmakers were inside the presidential palace on April 11, 2002, when he was forcibly removed from office. They were also present 48 hours later when, remarkably, he returned to power amid cheering aides. Their film records what was probably history's shortest-lived coup d'état. It's a unique document about political muscle and an extraordinary portrait of the man The Wall Street Journal credits with making Venezuela "Washington’s biggest Latin American headache after the old standby, Cuba." Available as DVD from the Information Clearing House.
During the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, eleven Israeli athletes are taken hostage and murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September. In retaliation, the Israeli government recruits a group of Mossad agents to track down and execute those responsible for the attack. (Written by Anonymous, imdb.com)
The story places two close friends, Palestinians Said and Khaled, recruited by an extremist group to perpetrate a terrorist attack in Tel-Aviv, blowing up themselves. However, things go wrong and both friends must separate in the border. One of them, maintaining in his purpose of carry the attack to the end, and the other will have his doubts about it. (Written by Alejandro Frias, imdb.com)
How can an open society balance demands for security with democracy? Based on the findings of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, State of Fear follows events in Peru, yet serves as a cautionary tale for a nation like the United States. Filmmakers Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy, and Paco de Onis masterfully blend personal testimony, history and archival footage to tell the story of escalating violence in the Andean nation and how the fear of terror undermined their democracy, making Peru a virtual dictatorship where official corruption replaced the rule of law. Terrorist attacks by Shining Path insurgents provoked a military occupation of the countryside. Military justice replaced civil authority, widespread abuses by the Peruvian Army went unpunished, and the terrorism continued to spread. Nearly 70,000 civilians eventually died at the hands of Shining Path and the Peruvian military (New Day Films).
Produced by the U.S. War Department 1946, Army-Navy Screen Magazine: A Pictorial Report for the Armed Forces Only, Issue No. 74. Prelinger Collection (public domain—free download). This is an military propaganda film in which American technological superiority is emphasized while human victims and suffering in the aftermath is visually erased.
Produced by Australian documentary film-maker and journalist John Pilger. When the two American atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, they were code-named 'Fat Man' and 'Little Boy', and President Truman announced after the event: "The experiment has been an overwhelming success." "These", says Pilger, "were words used to describe the awful and horrific carnage of nuclear war. By using reassuring, even soothing language, this new kind of propaganda created acceptable images of war and the illusion that we could live securely with nuclear weapons". Official 'truths' are examined in connection with the bombing of Hiroshima (and subsequently the nuclear arms race).
Sixty years after the dropping of the first atomic bomb, the Memorial Peace Museum in Hiroshima has commissioned and assembled an extraordinary collection of paintings and drawings made by the survivors. They create a vivid and intense record of the horror experienced that day. For many survivors who have never had the opportunity to express their emotions, these paintings provide evidence that will bring closure -- an end to torments that have lasted six decades. Shown on BBC Channel 4 in the UK on 27th of August 2005.
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Execution of Private Slovak
The Deer Hunter
Empire of the Sun
Saving Private Ryan
Pork Chop Hill
Full Metal Jacket
Flag of Our Fathers
Letters from Iwo Jima