Biopic tribute to slain war reporter Marie Colvin as journalism comes ‘under attack’

Rosamund Pike plays war correspondent Marie Colvin, who was an award-winning journalist for Britain’s The Sunday Times, in the biopic ‘A Private War.’ (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2018

Biopic tribute to slain war reporter Marie Colvin as journalism comes ‘under attack’

  • The movie, which got its world premiere in Toronto last month, hits screens as reporters face ever more threats
  • American war correspondent Marie Colvin died in an alleged government bombardment of a media center in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs

LONDON: A biopic of war correspondent Marie Colvin, who died in Syria in 2012, is a celebration of journalism as it increasingly comes “under attack,” according to the film-makers.
“A Private War,” released in US cinemas next month, chronicles the harrowing career of Colvin — played by “Gone Girl” star Rosamund Pike — who was an award-winning journalist for Britain’s The Sunday Times.
The feature film debut of director Matthew Heineman — an Oscar nominee in 2016 for his documentary “Cartel Land” — shows the reporter’s struggles to cope with the impact of reporting from the world’s conflict zones.
For Heineman, whose mother was a journalist, it is a “homage” to both Colvin and an increasingly besieged profession.
“It’s so important right now in this world of fake news and soundbites, where journalists are under attack, to celebrate journalism and to celebrate people like Marie,” he said at a London Film Festival screening Saturday.
The movie, which got its world premiere in Toronto last month, hits screens as reporters face ever more threats.
Actor Jamie Dornan — of the “Fifty Shades” franchise — who plays freelance photographer and longtime Colvin colleague Paul Conroy, said the work felt “timely.”
“This is a film about telling the truth,” he said on the red carpet. “Anything that can try to show true journalism in its finest light — the people who will go to these places to risk everything to tell us the truth — that’s a good thing.”
American Colvin died aged 56, alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik, in an alleged government bombardment of a media center in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs.
“A Private War,” adapted from a Vanity Fair article following her death, depicts her decades-spanning career and the psychological and physical toll it took on her.
It captures Colvin losing the sight of one eye — leading to her wearing a signature eyepatch — while covering Sri Lanka’s civil war, and interviewing former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi shortly before his death in 2011.
The film also shows her retreating into heavy drinking and battling likely post-traumatic stress disorder in between assignments.
Oscar-nominated Pike said she was attracted to the part by Colvin’s complexity.
“I wanted to put a woman out there on the screen who is admirable but not every quality she has is admirable,” she said.
“There was something about... the fierceness of passion in what she did that I related to.”
Photographer Conroy, who was injured by the bombing that killed Colvin but made a full recovery, said he was eager to advise on the film in part because of Heineman’s background in documentaries.
“His idea of the truth carried through from that — it wasn’t just ‘let’s make this frothy Hollywood film’,” he said at the screening. “The attention to detail is extraordinary.”
Heineman said he spent months researching the story, including watching practically every war film ever made.
He also enlisted locals rather than actors to play the parts of extras in the war zones portrayed.
“Those are real Syrian women shedding real tears and telling real stories,” he explained of scenes showing Colvin interviewing civilians in Syria.
“That was really important to me to try to bring an authenticity to this experience.”
The director said making “City of Ghosts,” a 2017 non-fiction film about a Syrian media activist group in Raqqa, and other conflict-driven documentaries helped him empathize with Colvin.
“I just felt enormous kinship with her, and also her desire to put a human face to poor innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire of these geo-political conflicts,” he added.


Staged Egypt protests unmask pro-Muslim Brotherhood bias of Al-Jazeera, other channels

Updated 27 September 2020

Staged Egypt protests unmask pro-Muslim Brotherhood bias of Al-Jazeera, other channels

  • Al-Jazeera ignored required vetting process for the videos before using them

DUBAI: State-owned Al-Jazeera and other Qatari and Turkish-funded channels have been accused for their pro-Muslim Brotherhood bias after airing videos of staged protests in Egypt, ignoring the required vetting process for the materials before using them.

Al-Jazeera, Mekameleen, Al-Sharq and the Rassd news outlets are known for their hostile reporting on the present Egyptian government, Egypt Today reported, especially in the aftermath of Muslim Brotherhood being declared a terrorist organization and right after its leader Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power.

The staged protests were filmed by United Company for Media Services led by Tamer Morsy, an Egyptian businessman and media producer, and were sent on purpose to the channels to test the degree of their professionalism, the report said.

Al-Jazeera’s decision to publish the video, allegedly without checking the source or treating the video with skepticism and citing unknown sources, shocked TV presenters and public figures in Egypt, the report added.

A special episode on Extra News channel presented by Youm7 editor-in-chief Khaled Salah and TV presenter Youssef Al-Hosseini showed how the purported protest actions Giza’s Nazlet El-Semman village were filmed.

The special episode showed a number of young pseudo-protesters at the Media Production City in Giza receiving instructions from director, before cameras rolled and they started to chant against the Egyptian state as part of a scene.

TV presenter Amr Adib has also called on Al-Jazeera to publish an apology for publishing a fake video without verification, and referred the Qatari channel’s similar missteps.

Al-Jazeera earlier this month published an old video, taken in 2013, and claimed that dozens of people were protesting against President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. The fabricated video went viral on pro-Muslim Brotherhood trolls’ social media accounts.

Egypt Today in a separate report said that the Muslim Brotherhood are allegedly targeting children as new recruits to their group, with the leadership reviving the Young Lions committee specifically for the purpose.

“The Young Lions committee will outline a whole pedagogic program that targets children and teenagers at schools, clubs and youth centers to once again engrave extremist ideas in the minds of a generation in a secret fashion and without revealing their name,” the report said.