Lest we forget, journalists on the front line

Shooting Vs Shooting is a documentary about these journalists – both Iraqi and international. Megrelis, a journalist with three decades of experience in Greek media and a former member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Journalists, is an impassioned advocate for these men and women. He travelled to 10 countries, including Iraq on two occasions, to tell the story of his fallen colleagues.

“What initially moved me to make the film was the silence,” he says from Melbourne where he is a guest of the Festival. “When our colleagues are alive, and they are reporting from the front lines — sending images to the TV and newspapers — they are in the centre of our lives. They make us understand what is going on there. When they die, everyone forgets them. This is not fair.

"First of all, they died trying to do their jobs. Secondly, in most cases there is impunity. Those involved in their death never face justice. This is one of the things I want to underline. Thirdly, journalists must be on the front line. Otherwise, the information will be left to the press releases and the videotapes from the propaganda machines on both sides. The truth will never be known.”

Shooting Vs Shooting took more than three years to make. Megrelis retells an occasion in Baghdad in 2009 when he filmed with Italian journalist Giuliani Sgrena, a victim of abduction herself, and a seminal character in the documentary. “It was October 25th and we were filming atop the Palestine Hotel when two car bombs exploded. One hundred and eighty were dead and 500 injured. It was risky, too risky, to make the film but I think it was worthwhile.”

In the documentary, Sgrena describes in detail her captivity by a terrorist group and the last moments of Nicola Calipari, the secret agent who freed her and was shot dead trying to protect her. Shooting Vs Shooting also follows the story of two cameramen, Jose Couso a Spanish national working for Telecinco and Ukrainian Taras Protsyuk who was working for Reuters. Both died on April 8, 2003, the day that American troops entered Baghdad.

“They were in the Palestine Hotel, where all the press were based. They were not doing more than their job. Jose was in the balcony of his room taping the entrance of the American troops. There was no battle. Suddenly an American tank fired against the hotel and the two colleagues were unlucky enough to loose their lives while some others were injured. It’s the story of how they died. The Americans give another story.”

Eight years after Jose Couso’s death, his case remains open. Couso’s mother, also a character in Megrelis’ film, continues to fight for justice through the Spanish legal system.

Megrelis interviews several leading international journalists, including two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times Anthony Shadid and former CNN anchor Chris Cramer.

“This is not an anti-American film,” Megrelis insists. “It’s a film that tells the truth. When journalists try to do their job they find themselves in crossfire. In this world it’s not the good guys and the bad guys. Both sides want to tell their story. When they have someone who is independent, someone who is trying to write down what really happened, that person is considered collateral damage. This is the story of journalists who are trying to do their job and are not part of a propaganda machine.”

Shooting Vs Shooting won the Best Documentary Award at the seventh edition of the Kazan International Muslim Film Festival.

Director Nikos Megrelis will be in Melbourne to introduce his documentary and take part in a Q&A following the screening on Monday October 17 at 6.45pm at 
Palace Cinema Como

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About this Blog

Ahead of the Australian premiere of Shooting Vs Shooting: Dying for the Truth at the 18th Greek Film Festival, I spoke with journalist/director Nikos Megrelis about his quest to pay tribute to the journalists who lost their lives reporting from the front line in Iraq.