Monday, 18 January 2021

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Ciné-ONU: Under The Wire

On 6th November, Cine-ONU screened ‘Under The Wire’ at Cinema Galeries in Brussels, in partnership with UNESCO and the UK representation
to the European Union to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and the Truth Never Dies Campaign.

Audience at Under The Wire

Under The Wire’ tells the story of war-correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy who entered war-ravaged Syria to cover the plight of civilians trapped in besieged Homs, under attack by the Syrian army. Only one of them returned. Based on Conroy’s book Under the Wire, the film is a gripping account of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Chris Martin, director of the film, Zaina Erhaim, Senior Media Specialist with the Institute of War and Peace Reporting and Saorla McCabe, Programme Specialist for the Division for Freedom of Expression, UNESCO, moderated by Petra Hongell (UNRIC).

To open the discussion Petra asked the panelists to share their initial thoughts on the film. Syrian journalist, Zaina Erhaim, replied “I haven’t looked at footage of Syria for two years for my own recovery and I told Chris that I might cry a lot watching this film. I cried a bit but what came back is the feeling in my stomach.”

Panelists discuss the film

Saorla McCabe, commented on the amount of attention international journalists who are killed receive in the media: “I don’t think we realise the true risk these journalists take to give us the news we read every day on the metro. It’s great all the visibility the international journalists get but 90% of journalists that are killed are local. More visibility needs to be given to these local journalists.”

Chris Martin talked about why this story needed to be told and Paul’s one request about the film: “It’s an incredible tale to tell. There a lot of different levels to it. I told Paul that ‘if you think I am going to make you and Marie Colvin heroes you will be disappointed.’Paul replied ‘please don’t use the word hero’, but I think Paul is a hero. I think that’s the title him and Marie deserve.”

An audience member posed the question “How do you stay professional in situations like the one seen in this film?” Zaina Erhaim answered: “I was covering female activists and we had great moments, laughing in Syria whilst we heard bombs being dropped around us but the first time I cried was when I was filming in Turkey. When you are in these situations your survival instinct kicks in. It’s after you leave this situation that what you have been through really hits you.”

Audience listen to panelists

Another audience member asked about whether all sides of the Syrian conflict are receiving equal treatment in the Western media and whether the western media is in fact linked to a country’s foreign policy, Chris Martin replied: “The answer is no. I think there are heinous things that do go unreported. If you underestimate what individuals can do you are underestimating what journalism can do. When you see people being bombed,you’re either for that or against it. There is nothing else. It doesn’t matter where it’s happening.”

The panel ended with a question on the changing landscape of journalism. Zaina Erhaim mentioned the development of the media’s agenda since thissituation in Syria began: “After, 2013 the media objective has changed. No one is as naïve as they once were. As a journalist you don’t assumethe international community will react, you just try to give a voice to the victims, to the voiceless.”

Chris Martin had the final say, ending it on the role technology has in journalism: “In a world of social media, with endless accounts, you’re in an echo chamber. But if you’re telling the stories from the ground then you’re going to tell the true story. People will watch a film and if they feel something they will do something about it.”


To see pictures from the evening, click here.

For more information about the film, click here.

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