November 11, 2016 — Critics agree — National Bird is an important and fascinating film.
An exposé of America’s continuing drone war, primarily told by three veterans who were involved with the project, director Sonia Kennebeck’s National Bird is both heartbreaking and maddening.
Ron Wilkinson, of Monsters and Critics, states: “This thoroughly researched film, directed by Sonia Kennebeck and produced by documentary legends Wim Wenders and Errol Morris, looks deep inside the drone establishment. Never before have we seen the inner workings of a top secret government agency as they are shown here. Three narrators with intimate involvement in the program share their heartbreak, anger and PTSD with the audience.
Although drone warfare is being sold as sanitized war, it is silently breeding a generation of traumatized soldiers with worse problems than returning ground troops. They are forced to see the results of their missile attacks much more up close and personal than airplane pilots ever were. If the person is not killed the first time, they are required to attack again and finish the job. This is bad enough when the identified target is struck, but it is much worse when innocents are caught in the trap. After an eight-hour shift, they are expected to get up and do it the next day. The emotional burden is unlike anything ever seen before.”Variety adds: “The first time an MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper takes out a human target on U.S. soil (along with any women, children and “military-aged males” close enough to be considered collateral damage), American citizens are likely to change their tune about the military’s still-too-secret drone program. That’s not just the subtext, but the virtual guarantee of Sonia Kennebeck’s alarm-sounding topic doc “National Bird,” which uses fly-over footage of various domestic locations to drive home the point that these unmanned aerial vehicles, designed to protect lives, could just as easily be turned against us — or the three courageous whistleblowers who’ve chosen to share their experience.
Chilling testimony from those three veterans, each of whom helped to wage war from behind consoles half a world away, serves as the backbone of a film that adds its voice to mounting criticism of the U.S. drone program.”
The Knockturnal: “… 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.”
The New York Times calls the film “…elegantly unsettling.”
Wim Wenders and Errol Morris executive produced the film.
Check here for National Bird theaters and times.