Michael Ware


Daily Telegraph: Confronting documentary Only the Dead provides frontline seats to war’s brutal reality

—Neil Keene

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Michael Ware, in front of the Victory Arch in Baghdad, was almost beheaded. Picture: Yuri Kosyrev

THE terrifying moments of being snatched off an Iraqi street and threatened with beheading by al-Qaeda have been captured by an Australian documentary filmmaker.

Conflict journalist Michael Ware directed documentary Only the Dead, which premiered at Event Cinemas on George St last night as part of the Sydney Film Festival.

The movie, one of 10 competing for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award, follows the former CNN reporter as he builds contacts with al-Qaeda insurgents, particularly the terrorist group’s founder in Iraq — Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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Michael Ware with parents Len and Gail for the Sydney Film Festival premiere of “Only the Dead”. Picture: Adam Ward

Ware wanted Only The Dead to make viewers feel they had experienced war for themselves — and he certainly achieves his goal.

You cannot help but walk out after the credits roll feeling shell-shocked by the footage he captured during his time embedded with Coalition forces and in the Iraqi insurgency.

This is first-person combat, looking down the gunsights at the horror that unfolds in war. Difficult viewing? Yes, but Only The Dead is also essential. If a nation is prepared to send its sons and daughters to war it should at least know where they are going and who they might be when they return.

One scene in particular is almost too unbearable to watch, until you consider Ware was right there to capture it.
He lived those gut-wrenching moments in the flesh. It makes the viewer feel obliged to endure them as well.