Anti-war cinema over the last 20 years has focused on personal stories rather than the conflict itself. Issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and prosecution of whistleblowers have become the criticism of foreign policy. National Bird embraces these recent topics by applying them to a burgeoning concern: drone warfare.
Lisa, Daniel, and Heather are disaffected souls in search of a way out of their current situation. The path? A new role in the American Air Force that allows servicemembers to control unarmed aircraft over Afghanistan. While the “pilots” only see combat from a computer screen, the effects of the battlefield remain long after the mission is over.
Focusing on three different former drone operators, National Bird examines the various ways veterans cope with grief. As the film shows, not all methods are positive nor provide the ideal solution. This variety is in fact the strength of the documentary. Each story, whether healing or not, achieves the condemnation of drone warfare sought by director Sonia Kennebeck. While this may seem like the base objective from the film’s premise, the candid moments with each whistleblower allow for a philosophical depth that exceeds convention.
National Bird succeeds because it confronts drone warfare while also addressing the inevitably of drone usage in daily life. As evident with Amazon’s initiative for drone deliveries and the rise of commercial-use drones, it is obvious that not all uses are for warfare. Regardless, the Obama administration has been dogged by criticism from human-rights groups concerning the unaccountable death toll from drones in Afghanistan – a topic discussed in the film. While National Bird presents its own conclusion on drone use, the balanced presentation of information allows the audience to decide.
National Bird is released in selected cinemas on 28th June 2016.
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