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War Photographer


Robert Capa’s motto was “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you are not close enough.” The incredibly talented war photographer James Nachtwey has been close enough for twenty years.
From Kosovo to Indonesia and Palestine, viewers are given real-time access to Nachtwey’s unique perspective thanks to the miniature camera attached to his still camera, which enables us to see all that he sees, as he sees it. Frei, following just a few meters behind, shows us the full context of how Nachtwey works to capture these heartrending images.

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Running Time: 96 min.
Subject(s): Arts and Culture, Biography, History, Photography, War
Language(s): English
Producer(s): Christian Frei
Editor(s): Christian Frei
Production Company: Christian Frei Filmproductions


  • “For more than two decades Mr. Nachtwey has traveled to places in the world devastated by war, famine and poverty and documented the cruelty and suffering he has found with an devastating, eloquent clarity.”
    A.O. Scott
  • “Frei provides a keenly observed, amply illustrated portrait of the man and his not exactly comfy chosen profession”
    Michael Rechtshaffen
  • “Frei's masterstroke is immediately apparent, as he has a micro-camera attached to Nachtwey's 35 mm camera body. It allows us to see Nachtwey from a bug's p.o.v., if that bug were clinging to his camera and watching the lenser's every subtle move. More than a mere device, this is a completely fresh way of capturing a photographer going about his work. An instant classic of its kind, docu, which opens Stateside in June, should find ready buyers for prestige docu-friendly slots internationally.”
    Robert Koehler
  • “Frei assembles a fascinating profile of a deeply humanistic artist who, in spite of all that he's witnessed, remains surprisingly idealistic, and retains an extraordinary faith in the ability of images to communicate the truth of the world around him.”
    Ken Fox
  • “Intriguing Oscar-nominated documentary.”
    Phil Hall
  • “This film is an act of spiritual faith -- an eloquent, deeply felt meditation on the nature of compassion.”
    Edward Guthmann
  • “Watching War Photographer, you come to believe that Nachtwey hates the wars he shows and empathizes with the victims he reveals.”
    Michael Wilmongton

Festival & Awards

  • Academy Awards - 2002
    Nominated for Oscar for Best Documentary
  • Encounters South African International Documentary Festival - 2002
    Audience Award for Best Film
  • Gent Viewpoint Documentary Film Festival - 2002
    Canvas Prize
  • Doc Aviv International Documentary Festiva - 2002
    Award for Best International Documentary
  • Durban International Film Festival - 2002
    Award for Best Documentary
  • Swiss Film Prize - 2002
    Nominated for Swiss Film Prize for Best Documentary
  • Adolf Grimme Awards - 2003
    Nominated for Best Cultural Documentary
  • European Documentary Film Festival - 2003
    Eurodok Award
  • One World Documentary Film Festival - 2003
    Audience Award
  • Dokufest Film Festival - 2003
    Award for Best Documentary
  • Emmy Awards - 2003
    Nominated for Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Cinematography
  • Amsterdam International Documentary Filmfestival - 2001
  • Vision du Reel - 2002
  • Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - 2002
  • Hot Docs Documentary Festival - 2002

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  • Biography James Nachtwey

    James Nachtwey
    American, born 1948

    James Nachtwey grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Dartmouth College, where he studied Art History and Political Science (1966-70). Images from the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement had a powerful effect on him and were instrumental in his decision to become a photographer. He has worked aboard ships in the Merchant Marine, and while teaching himself photography, he was an apprentice news film editor and a truck driver. In 1976 he started work as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico, and in 1980, he moved to New York to begin a career as a freelance magazine photographer. His first foreign assignment was to cover civil strife in Northern Ireland in 1981 during the IRA hunger strike. Since then, Nachtwey has devoted himself to documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues. He has worked on extensive photographic essays in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Russia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Romania, Brazil and the United States.

    Nachtwey has been a contract photographer with Time Magazine since 1984. He was associated with Black Star from 1980 – 1985 and was a member of Magnum from 1986 until 2001. He has had solo exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York, the Palazzo Esposizione in Rome, El Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, the Carolinum in Prague, the Hasselblad Center in Sweden, the Canon Gallery and the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, among others.

    He has received numerous honours such as the Robert Capa Gold Medal (five times), the World Press Photo Award twice, Magazine Photographer of the Year (six times), the International Center of Photography Infinity Award three times, the Leica Award twice, the Bayeaux Award for War Correspondents (twice), the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, the Canon Photo essayist Award and the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant in Humanistic Photography. He is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and has an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Arts.

  • Additional Festivals

    Peabody Award – Peabody Award – 2004

    Osaka European Film Festival – City of Osaka Award – 2002

    Cologne Conference – Phoenix Award for Best Non-Fiction Program 2002

    Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival – Audience Award for Best Documentary – 2002

    New York Swiss American Film Festival – Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature – 2003

    Human Rights Watch International Film Festival 2002

    Sichuan Television Festival 2002

    Seoul Human Rights Film Festival 2002

    Sydney International Film Festival 2002

    Locarno International Film Festival 2002

    Encounters International Documentary Festival 2002
    International Film Festival Europa Cinema 2002

    Warsaw International Film Festival 2002

    São Paulo International Film Festival 2002

    Jakarta International Film Festival 2002

    Tempo Documentary Festival Stockholm 2002

    Valladolid International Film Festival 2002

    Hot Spring Documentary Film Festival 2002

    International Istanbul Film Festival 2002

    International Festival of New Latin American Cinema 2002

    Human Rights Watch International Film Festival 2003

    Max Ophüls Preis Film Festival 2003

    Singapore International Film Festival 2003

    Hong Kong International Film Festival 2003

    Telluride Mountain Film Festival 2003

    International Art Festival, Slovak Republic 2003

    Sichuan Television Festival 2003

    DocPoint Documentary Film Festival 2004

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