Trailer

Out on DVD February 21

"COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY BY IT THE BEST WAR DOCUMENTARY I'VE SEEN. A BRILLIANT FILM" - NICK BROOMFIELD

"A SEARING FILM THUNDERED MY PULSE AND CONSTRICTED MY THROAT" - THE TIMES

"RIVETING TAKES YOU TO THE EDGE AND BACK" - TIME OUT

Story

Robert King, 38 years old from Memphis is stalking the Tennessee woods. As he raises his Kalashnikov he reflects on what first took him to a war “fifteen years ago I was very naive, I was going on my only option in life to stay alive...” Sarajevo, 1993. Robert, a 24-year old art graduate is aiming to be the youngest ever Pulitzer Prize winner. He’s got 800 bucks in his pocket, has never been to a war and his ambition is proving tough. He gets shot at on the front line, fired by his agent and sets light to his apartment – all within his first month. Despite everything he is funny, charming, engaging and continues to be optimistic about his life’s possibilities.

Grozny, 1997. We find Robert in Chechnya’s bombed out streets and he’s a far cry from when we last saw him. He’s tougher, meaner, and wiser and his pictures have adorned the covers of the world’s top publications – from Time to Figaro. He’s becoming a force to be reckoned with in the industry. He is also much more savvy, “you can get into a lot of trouble here, you can just focus on booze and women and night clubs.”

Robert moves to Russia and continues to flirt with conflict. In between bouts in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Albania and Kosova he parties in the vein of what he calls ‘the Robert Capa’ approach to journalism. “I didn’t want to mourn silently in my fucking room”. Iraq, 2007. Robert now married with a family is in many ways more settled than we’ve ever seen him. Although the Pulitzer remains elusive he is now considered a leading combat photographer and Iraq has become his main pay cheque. But journalism has become much more deadly than it was in Bosnia. It’s almost impossibly dangerous ‘outside the wire’ so Robert is forced to embed with the US military. With all the restrictions this brings, Robert is frustrated, unable to work and nostalgic for the relative freedom of the Bosnia days. And fifteen years of covering wars have had an effect, “yeah I’m cynical, how many dead bodies have I stepped over - I’m kind of damaged goods”.

Shooting Robert King explores the complex web of motivations that drive someone to extremes: the insecurities and aspirations, the striving for excellence and acknowledgement and the seemingly conflicting need to be at peace and yet near danger. Over 15 years and three wars - from naivety to cynicism and finally achieving the recognition he sought, this film addresses the two questions that are always asked of those who report wars: Why do you do it? How does it affect you? It leaves the viewer feeling strangely culpable for not having ever heard of or noticed Robert and the others like him that must be out there.

The Film

At times war photographer Robert King resembles a heroic misfit straight out of the pages of Scoop, thrown into the heart of battle, struggling to adapt to the brutal environment he finds himself in. Occasionally comic, often touching, more often dark, Shooting Robert King, the tale of Robert King, is a unique and personal journey, a film which follows him over 15 years and through three wars.

His journey starts in Sarajevo in 1993, a 23-year-old fresh out of Art College and prepared to dodge bullets on the front line dreaming of a Pulitzer Prize. His dream proves elusive. Fired by his photo agency and struggling to make ends meet, any swashbuckling allusions Robert holds for the career he has chosen quickly evaporate: as he realises this is one of the toughest professions in the world.

Despite himself, Robert stays in the game, over time establishing himself as a respected professional, his work making the front covers of global media titles. Over 15 years Shooting Robert King records Robert’s life from boy to man, to husband and father. It is a biography, which leads from reckless naivety to maturity hardened by war and softened by family. It is a story, which forces Robert to inevitably question why he chose a profession, which involves an endless trail of death and destruction.

The Producers

When we first met Robert in 1993 we had no idea the journey the film was going to take. We were ourselves video freelancers, trying to make a buck, stay alive, and see the world – not so different from Robert actually. Our intention was to make a documentary that authentically reflects the struggles, charisma and complexity of these freelances – those unsung heroes at the bottom of the food chain, in this extraordinary world. Both of us had shot other documentaries for networks following war journalists and we felt aggrieved by these programs tendency to simplify and ‘paint heroes’.

Over the years we found it almost impossible to get the broadcast world to pay attention to what we thought was a great story with an engaging and honest character. We were determined to pursue it.

It has been a journey that taken us in different directions too. ‘Frontline News’, our agency, saw 8 cameramen die covering wars. The industry has changed and it’s now much tougher to make a living as a freelancer. ‘Frontline’ is now a journalists’ club. With a restaurant, meeting place and forum dedicated to the memory of fallen colleagues. Vaughan, who still does some conflict news, runs it. Richard now works on a broader range of features and documentaries.

Against our expectations, Robert has persisted in a remarkably difficult walk of life where the likelihood of ‘burn out’, ‘drop out’ or just failure – is pretty high. And this film is a testament to his endurance.

Vaughan Smith

Richard Parry

Reviews

I was blown away. Beautiful. Important, Profound... Robert is a kind of Everyman for our tribe. The nervous, hopeful greenhorn beginnings, the heart breaking moments of set back early on, the determined optimism that makes him, in the end, a success, the price he pays, the hedonism, the addiction, the lessons en route. And the enduring optimism... Wonderful, powerful, filmmaking. Allan Little, BBC Correspondent, writer

Richard Parry's extraordinary film about the perils, both physical and mental, of being a war photographer.... King's pictures (are) brilliant, perfect encapsulations of trauma, turmoil, chaos and waste ... that's what makes the photographs, and this film, so compelling. Tim Dowling, The Guardian

Journalists will love this striking exploration of warzones over the past 15 years, The footage in this film is expertly shot by professional cameramen in some of the most harrowing places on earth ... These kinds of subtle observations make the amazing footage and stills even more meaningful. This is a thoughtful and provocative film unlike anything we've seen. It's also vitally important.
Rich Cline, BBC Radio 5 live, UK (4 stars out of 4)

Intriguing documentary about American photojournalist Robert King,... Parry's footage, accumulated over a decade and a half, ends up introducing us to a wised-up and, later, avowedly philosophical King: "I was fucked up before I even went; that's why I was so good at it."
Andrew Pulver, Guardian, UK (3 stars out of 5)

This fascinating account of the unheralded heroes of international conflict - the journos, photographers and cameramen - succeeds for exactly the same reasons as the best reportage: by focusing on just one story, it somehow tells many more... Parry's film surveys the wreckage and finds in King a fearless, fascinating, flawed figure, and tells his story with the sort of gallows wit that only comes through living cheek by jowl with death.
John Fortgang, Channel 4, UK (4 stars out of 5)

King is a slippery subject – part self-absorbed fratboy, part tortured artist – but Parry's unerring focus and documentary discipline make him as fascinating as he is infuriating. Tom Huddleston, Time Out London Parry's film surveys the wreckage and finds in King a fearless, fascinating, flawed figure, and tells his story with the sort of gallows wit that only comes through living cheek by jowl with death... A fascinating, entertaining and skillfully assembled documentary about the messed up business of war reporting, and the messed up men who do it.
Film Four Film Reviews, (4 stars out of 5)

"COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY BY IT THE BEST WAR DOCUMENTARY I'VE SEEN. A BRILLIANT FILM" - NICK BROOMFIELD

"A SEARING FILM THUNDERED MY PULSE AND CONSTRICTED MY THROAT" - THE TIMES

"RIVETING TAKES YOU TO THE EDGE AND BACK" - TIME OUT

Stills

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