“It’s like borders don’t matter anymore.” Three whistleblowers come forward with details about America’s drone-warfare program in Sonia Kennebeck’s powerful “National Bird.” In punchy journalistic fashion and through elegant, combustible aerial imagery, Kennebeck captures a range of collateral damage in other countries and back home. One whistleblower talks about her PTSD; Afghan villagers who survived attacks on celebrations and funerals; a lawyer for one of the soldiers, Jesselyn Radack, becomes a figure in the story. “I can say the drone program is wrong,” one cautious witness says, “because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed.” Lying beneath Kennebeck’s insistent imagery, as well as explicit discussion by analysts, is the inescapable implication that it’s only a matter of time before drones are used within American borders. (“National Bird,” obviously, was completed before the presidential election.) Executive produced by Errol Morris and Wim Wenders. 92m. (Ray Pride)
“National Bird” opens Friday, December 16 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.