An in-depth and touching look of the drone program and the effect it has had abroad as well as at home.
It seems everyday we here some news about drones, whether it be a flimsy toy here in the U.S, or a devastating war machine in the Middle East. Either way, we hear a lot about the success of the later in eliminating terrorists and threats to the us at home. However, what we don’t hear about is the great deal of uncertainty involved in it all, which results in the deaths and injuries of many innocents in places like Afghanistan. We also never hear about the PTSD suffered by those who played roles in the Drone program. National Bird follows the stories of three different individuals who spent varying times in the Drone program and are now either coming to terms with what they did, trying to make up for their actions, or are under heavy government scrutiny for their subtle outcry against the program.
Sonia Kennebeck, who directed this film, shows us these different viewpoints on this controversial program in beautiful and personal detail. However, it’s not quite perfect. While she focuses on the impact drones have had on people, the jumps she takes between the three main figures is quite large and unconnected. While they all find common ground in the sad fact that the drone program has scarred them mentally and emotionally, the ways they go about reconciling their past and living their lives is very different. While one woman, Lisa, attempts to right the wrongs done by the drones, another, Heather, attempts to live a normal life. At the same time, Daniel, who since his time in the Drone Program has become anti-establishment, is facing a possible treason sentence. While different perspectives in an expository piece like this is welcome and good, the transitions between each subject is a bit jarring and anything but smooth. The overall order at which events were displayed could’ve been done in a more appropriate manner so that the stories fall into one another smoothy, rather than a simple chronological telling of events.
Sonia does do a phenomenal job of highlighting the inner turmoil each of these people face. Heather, who was on a suicide watch list during her time in the program, received little help from the military and has see her friends wallow away at the bottom of a bottle as she hopes to cope with her actions. Lisa, who was a decorated technical sergeant, is doing her best to make up for the wrongs she had committed. Daniel has become somewhat anti-establishment and attends rallies condemning certain actions of the government.
All in all, this film does one thing undoubtedly well, and that is shine a spotlight into the “video game” warfare that is the Drone Program. One of the subjects, Heather, adequately puts it “I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed”. Personal statements from her, Lisa, and Daniel really show the inner turmoil they are going through and really adds the pathos and personal shock this documentary was aiming for. The transcript of a drone strike gone wrong was the perfect touch to highlight the issues with the Drone Program. If you get a chance to see this film, take the opportunity to do so. You’ll learn a lot and hear from the unsung perspective of those who suffered while in the Drone Program, rather than from a politician. However, that’s all you’ll find in this documentary, a one-sided biased viewpoint rather than a discussion about the program’s overall reaching effects. This is where the documentary falls short of being a great piece of work.