Witness: A World in Conflict Through A Lens focuses on four distinct locations – Juarez, Libya, South Sudan, and Rio. Michael Mann (Thief, The Aviator, and Texas Killing Fields) focuses on the plights captured by combat photographers. Merely existing in these war-zones is a difficult enough tasks, but being the individual that captures these hells is something completely different. What results in Witness is a tremendously personal film that utilizes some of the most deadly locales as a backdrop. The shocking reality on the ground in these areas can only be communicated by those connected to a news bureau, meaning that combat photographers are an integral source to the dissemination of news and discussion of the horrors that exist.
I feel that the time that is spent on the photographers in South Sudan is perhaps the most interesting piece of Witness. South Sudan is the newest country acknowledged by national governments (it received independence from Sudan in July, 2011) and has existed in a form of chaos since its founding. As a result, few reporters exist in this country, and U.S. coverage of South Sudan’s news and growing pains has been lacking as a result. However, the Mexico footage is still very useful in filling in viewers’ lack of knowledge about the country. Mexico’s battling with the drug cartels has been given considerable coverage in U.S. newspapers, but Frankham (director) and Mann are able to glean precious information from the combat photographers on the ground.
While the four documentaries each have their unique styling and overall feel, Witness does well in connecting the disparate areas covered here. Witness can be purchased at any well-stocked video store or online retailers that focuses on videos.
Witness: A World in Conflict Through A Lens DVD Review / 2013 HBO / 187 Minutes / http://www.hbo.com