In the year 2012, in the besieged city of Homs, Syria, photojournalist Paul Conroy had the good fortune to escape alive, as a makeshift media center came under attack by Syrian government forces. His colleagues, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, were killed. A new documentation Under the wire tells the story – the first of two films this year, the function of the Colvin and Conroy.
In spite of the violent way they died, there are times when Conroy can only smile at the memory of the war correspondent Colvin.
“I met with Marie about 15 years ago. We were both trying to get into Northern Iraq from Syria. I’d built a boat across the Tigris river from lorry inner tubes and bits of wood and basically a string.
“But I got captured and was sent back, and in the journalists’ bar, nobody would speak with me because they all thought that I’d spoiled their chances. Then Marie went on and said, who and where is the “Boatman’? I put my hand and she said, ‘the boat man, can I buy you a whiskey?’ That was the beginning.”
Then Conroy came across in the Sunday Times: “the US-born correspondent several times. As a resourceful photo journalist with a similar taste for the field of battle, he their reputation was not aware of.
“She was notoriously difficult, and some of the photographers she worked with found it scary. And you would only do not throw, if they fit.
“Marie and I worked together in Libya for the Sunday Times and there was once a man, to fill the was that for me for a few days. But almost simultaneously, Marie on the phone was back again, now, you would already have this guy out of 300 miles, and you never spoke to him again.”
Under the wire, directed by film-maker Chris Martin, try not to colleague, to portray her, Colvin, as a simple.
He remembers that it was filmed in the Caribbean, when he heard of her death. “And I saw footage on YouTube of Paul a prisoner in Syria. I saw that the people with whom I worked, were really worried about his fate, and I knew there was a story to be told.”
Martin documentary shows what happens after Colvin and Conroy’s arrival in Homs by a 3-km storm drain.
Conroy says, the city was the obvious turning point of the story. The government of President Bashar al-Assad saw, Homs as a stronghold of the revolt, and was ready to smash dissent.
Conroy says always, was difficult. “We spent to make a week or two in Beirut contacts. From there we went up into the mountains between Lebanon and Syria, where we met with members of the Free Syrian army (a loose anti-Assad coalition). She led us across the border at night through minefields, dodging army checkpoints. Then another unit of the Free Syrian army handed over to us.
“It took about three days to 30 kilometers. But the only way in Baba Amr, in the part of Homs are really getting hammered was of this storm drain about 4 feet high. We went through it bent over and carry all our kit. We were moved out, the tunnel thrown in the back of a truck and ran the gauntlet of Syrian troops.
Conroy says the few journalists around Homs they were aware of the risks. “I was told to kill by a Lebanese source, the Syrian government, the policy was, to journalists, and then delete the bodies on the battlefield. It was a terrible situation, and the film makes that very clear.”
Martin makes no apologies for it, filled the visual gaps in the narrative. “We went to extraordinary lengths to find video material. A lot of it was just the odd five seconds, in Homs by activists; it is a huge amount of tracking down, not only in the Middle East. We found things such as a Skype call from the journalists based in Homs at the moment the missiles hit.”
But he says that some 15 minutes of the running time consists of the reconstructions of what happened to Colville, and Conroy and the other four journalists with them before the fatal attack – Edith Bouvier, Remi Ochlik, and William Daniels, the all the French and Spanish journalist Javier were Espinosa.
Martin recognizes this is the path that a film like this would have only a couple of years ago.
“We had only three or four minutes of material, which had shot Paul – everything else was destroyed when the missiles came. But we found some footage of the tunnel, and even of Paul and Marie to work in Homs, which turned out to be, that Marie is the last piece of journalism.
“Therefore, we have compiled the archive of our interview with Paul, and the testament of Edith Bouvier and William Daniels and Wael its brave translator. That was the spine of the film.”
But, Martin says, the documentary market is changing and as he result, he decided, needed to shoot high-quality extra material for you to knit the story.
The production team decamped to the North of Morocco stage for a version of the storm-drain sequence. Additional interior were filmed in London. The craft skills on display mean the documentation often has the feel of a well-produced film.
“Documentaries such as Under the wire are now first going to see on the Theater,” he says. “They’re not just for TV. And if you are in the cinema you are in competition with movies that cost $100m (£77m), or more could. So we have to engage us, the viewer. We can’t expect the audience to come and find the story in our own way.”
The American Director Matthew Heineman was also at work on the life of Colvin. A Private war, told in part the same story, is due for release this year. But Heineman has a feature film, starring Rosamund Pike as Colvin and Jamie Dornan as Conroy.
In real life, Conroy only then be implemented, again in London, how badly he’s been hurt in the attack that killed Colvin and Ochlik.
“Of course, I knew that I had a huge hole in the back of my leg. However, in London I found out, I had also wedged a very large piece of shrapnel under my kidneys. I had 23 surgeries on my leg and the other on my belly and back. I was in the hospital for five months.
“There is still a story to tell, in Syria. I can’t even tell start to, how deeply I regret it, Marie and Remi have to die. But, I regret and trying to do our job? Absolutely not.”
Under the wire is on release.
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