A film written and directed by Mark Daniels
runtime 1:32:15, click play to start
The invasion of Iraq was the most closely documented war ever fought. Lasting only 800 hours, it produced 20,000 hours
of video, but those images were tightly controlled, producing a monolithic view of combat sanitised and controlled by the
Enemy Image traces the ways U.S. television has covered war, starting with Vietnam in the 1960s
and shows how the military has devised ever-improving means of ensuring the American public never again has the real face
of combat beamed directly into their living rooms.
Cutting Edge: Enemy Image
“The point of departure is a great faith in ordinary human beings and the sane and decent way they behave when
they have the true facts of the case”
– Wilfred Burchett, Phnom Penh, 1968
Modern television has
the technical means to take us anywhere and show us anything. It can bring us the physical experience of war, with all its
horrors, like no other medium. And yet the image of American war on television is increasingly disembodied, bloodless, and
Enemy Image is the Cutting Edge documentary screening on SBS Television on Tuesday, 16 August at 8.30 pm. The
film traces the development of the image of war on American television from Vietnam to the present day to understand why we
see what we see when we look at war on television. It tells the story of how the perception of war has become as important
as war itself. And it asks how democracy can be served if citizens are denied a true understanding of the daily consequences
of the wars their nations fight.
Vietnam was the “living room war,” the first war played out on television.
The debate over whether or not television “lost the war” has had far-reaching consequences on how we see war on
television today. The Pentagon and the White House have evolved strategies to control the image of war. Television has adapted.
Enemy Image uses outstanding reports and images from American wars of the last thirty years to explore the changing role of
the war correspondent and the strange disappearance of the body from the image of war.
Writer-Director Mark Daniels
comments, “This film developed out of my encounter with the remarkable Vietnam War reporting of Wilfred Burchett and
Roger Pic. They witnessed and reported that war as no other Westerners could, and their body of work remains an historical
treasure. Their films opposed American images of technical and material power with images of revolutionary solidarity, improvisation,
and sacrifice. Putting their images in relation with American television reports produces a full historical record of the
war; not just its great events, but the tragedies, cruelties and unexpected heroics that are the daily consequences of every
conflict. Vietnam war reporting brought us the experience of war, directly.”
He continues, “But many in
government and the military felt that television had a demoralising impact that turned public opinion against the war. Television
was blamed for America’s defeat. In the wars that followed – Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I, Afghanistan –
journalists were barred from recording combat. With the War in Iraq Americans had the chance to see their troops at the front
for the first time in a generation. Journalists “embedded” with American and British forces brought sights and
sounds from the battlefield to the living room, live. But where was the tragedy? Where was the cruelty? Where was the heroism?
Had the technology of warfare evolved so far as to eliminate the sufferings of the body? I didn’t think so. Enemy Image
is the result of over two years of research on the evolution of the representation of war on television. What truths does
television tell us about war? What do we see? What don’t we see? And why?”