Friendly Fire - back to the Balkans (view this story)

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Rep: 38
Kevin Wellenius July 7, 2010, 9:07 a.m. permalink

The photography here is really strong; the videography is also good, but not up to the level of the still photographs. That said, the visuals would have worked better as a gallery of still images, for a few reasons.

First, while you use video, we don't actually see anything happening in that video. The interviews are the only exception, and seeing someone talk is not especially high value.

Second, the music is heavy handed. From the beginning, the music telegraphs the instruction that "this is a very somber, serious piece of great social importance." Strong pieces lead a viewer to that conclusion with the content of what is shown, rather than with music. (For this reason, Rob Rosenthal of calls music "emotional fascism.")

The production is relatively straightforward: interviews with subtitles as we watch what are essentially landscape photographs of areas with war artifacts and damage 11 years (for Kosovo) or 14 years (for Bosnia) after the end of the conflicts. Even so, there are some places where we get both a text slide and subtitles, which is impossible to take in without hitting the PAUSE button. Even if I spoke Italian, this wouldn't work, since I can't listen and read at the same time. Audio for a text slide should generally not require much of my brain, so natural sound works well.

But finally, I have a problem with the wholesale acceptance of the claim that cancer was caused by exposure to depleted uranium while in the Balkans. This may or may not be accurate, but there is no indication that the producers did any independent research. A quick Google search found this World Health Organization study on the effects of depleted uranium and concluded that "No convincing evidence is available to indicate any health impacts to the Kosovo population associated with the use of depleted uranium." (page 26) Other studies surely come to different conclusions, and will be of varying credibility, but the uncritical presentation of the information in the piece robs it of much journalistic or documentary value, in my opinion.


Rep: 1
TerraProject photographers July 8, 2010, 7:13 a.m. permalink

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for taking the time to review our work. We appreciate your frank critique; however we would like to take this opportunity to clarify some additional points.

This work was produced subsequent to an invitation to participate at an international meeting of photo collectives, and we decided to continue with a theme that we have been following since 2006. The outcome of the meeting being an itinerant exhibition, it was planned that in addition to the classic framed pictures, we would introduce an audio/video element that could help the viewers to understand the complex background of the story. We did not want to make a video per se, as the main purpose was to let the voices of the 4 subjects guide the narration of the pictures. The music was chosen according to the pathos we tried to create. Depicting invisible environmental pollution in photographs had to be transmitted as a sensation; utilizing audio assisted in this aspect. I think our intention has been very distant from what you define, with an inflated terminology of 'emotional fascism', which is practically everything and nothing.

We also have an issue with your comment on the acceptance of depleted uranium as a cause of cancer. We are not aware what your occupation/specialization is, nor do we know why you have based your conclusions on the basis of one outdated study. We have been following the issue of depleted uranium since 2006, always with the technical support of independent, science experts. The controversy regarding the health effects of depleted uranium is a result of many factors, one of which is the "confusion" between the effect of radiation by depleted uranium weapons and the effect of the poisonous heavy-metal nanoparticles released during the explosions of such ammunitions. The innovative research of Italian scientists Antonietta Gatti and Stefano Montanari shows that such particles are found both in the tissues of soldiers affected by Balkan Syndrome and in the environment where depleted uranium weapons have been used.

You claim that our work lacks some documentary value and you support this assertion by citing one source found through a "quick Google search". I can definitely tell you that our investigation and work has been much deeper and involved.

Rep: 38
Kevin Wellenius July 8, 2010, 1:51 p.m. permalink

I do not doubt that you have learned a lot about the specific weapons and the debate on their health impacts. However, none of that is presented in the piece. What is presented are text slides in which you, as the producer, are making a factual statement that exposure in the Balkans caused these diseases. I am not a health specialist nor a scientist of any kind, but I do know when a claim of fact has not been supported, and it makes me suspicious. At that point, I no longer know if I'm watching journalism or propaganda.

I am not suggesting this should have been a science program about the health effects of depleted uranium weapons. That might be interesting, but it was not the main objective. Instead what I would have preferred is to let the soldiers speak about what they saw, what they experienced, what they think about it today, but without imposing your definitive judgment of the cause.

In one sense, not knowing what made a person sick is far more frightening.


Rep: 444
Eric Seals July 8, 2010, 3:56 p.m. permalink

Hi TerraProject,

Kevin made some good points of praise and constructive criticism of your video which is the exact point of Finding the Frame.

Yeah it does suck a little and hurt a bit when someone just doesn't shower your video with high levels of awesome but that's how most of us learn, grow and get better on this site.  If people find faults, errors or a "that part of the video didn't work for me because of...." they say that because they either care or want to help and the only agenda they have is what I mention in the last make us better.

I've had a couple videos reviewed on here that I thought were really good. People like Kevin, Michael Rosenblum and others found things I either didn't think about when shooting or editing, better nat sound, the narrative arc of the story, etc. Their constructive criticism gave me a "I see what your saying" moment.  I filed that away for the next video I did and their words really helped me out and I'm grateful for their comments.

If your looking for "that was amazing, "wow" or "stunning" this really isn't the place for that, go show the video to your mom or dad and you'll get tons of praise :-)

We all have lots to learn and are about helping each other do that here, Kevin was just giving his opinion and trying to help you get better at what you do.


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