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United Kingdom 2012
Directed by
David Morris / Jacqui Morris
89 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Synopsis: A documentary about Don McCullin who from the 1960s to the early 1980s was the Sunday Times’  war photographer.

You may not know the name of Don McCullin but you probably have at one time or another seen his photographs. David and Jacqui Morris’s documentary about him is fascinating, not so much for McCullin himself who is a quiet and unassuming man but for the staggering amount of human brutality he has personally witnessed across three decades as a photojournalist for The Sunday Times. He may not have been in every war zone there was during this period but he came close.  

The litany of brutality is one thing but at the heart of the film is the question of how anyone could cope with it.  One recalls Conrad’s "Heart Of Darkness" and Kurtz’s last words, made famous by Apocalypse Now : “The horror!”. Even for the armchair audience the endless barbarity and the attendant suffering it wreaks tends to overwhelm. McCullin however is dispassionate about his experience and admits that he became a “war junkie”. At some stage he crossed the threshold and his vocation also became his addiction. It is a candid insight which typifies McCullin’s self-critical manner. His former editor at the Sunday Times on the other hand calls him a ‘conscience with a camera’, a description which equally suits.

The film is well put-together. The directors have managed to get live footage of many of the battle zones which McCullin photographed and this brings home the actuality of the events in a way that his stills alone could not (some of the footage is quite confronting). Following a chronological approach, the sheer number of wars zones from Asia to the Middle East to Africa is alarming. In this respect McCullin's work is a mirror to man's inhumanity to man. woman and child in the second half of the 20th century.  It was really only the changing times, including the Rupert Murdoch takeover of the Sunday Times and its subsequent dumbing down, that forced McCullin to move on.  As he tellingly observes he would not even be allowed to take the kind of images that he once did as the media is now so closely controlled. In this respect his career also matches the rise and death of independent journalism.

McCullin tells a remarkable story and should not be missed.




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