Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nine Men Down

I spotted the film Nine Men Down in next week's TV listings, which will be shown on the History Channel in the UK on Friday 30th June at 9pm. Here's the story behind that film.

In 1970, as the Vietnam War spilled over the borders into neighbouring Cambodia, journalists followed the fray. But what appeared at first to be a side note to the main story soon became a tragedy in which those covering the news played the starring role. Approximately 150 journalists were sent to Cambodia to cover the expanding conflict. By the end of that summer, 25 of them had gone missing or were confirmed dead. And nine of them were killed on the same day. Filled with the recollections of those who were there, Nine Men Down is an extraordinary picture of the risks journalists take to be the first to file a story from the front. From the disappearance of the first two reporters to one man's 20-year quest to bring the victims home, it captures every aspect of the summer that journalism will never forget.

Nine Men Down is also the story of one of the journalists who survived, CBS cameraman Kurt Volkert. Volkert felt he should have been with the downed journalists that ill-fated day, but by a twist of fate he escaped his friends' tragic destiny. Volkert made it his life's mission to return to Cambodia to bring his dead friends home. Nine Men Down revisits the war that shaped an entire generation. It tells the untold story of war journalists and pays tribute to those who died bringing us the news.

On the same topic, one of my favourite novels that covers the disappearance of a photographer inside Cambodia during the 70s is Christopher J Koch's Highways To A War. Another fave book of mine is River Of Time, a memoir by journalist Jon Swain who was immersed in Indo-China at the time and was one of the lucky few who were captured by the Khmer Rouge but lived to tell the tale.

1 comment:

Andy said...

I watched the Nine Men Down documentary-cum-reconstruction and it brought home how foolhardy some of the journos were at that time in trying to out-do each other for the next big story. They were dealing with an unknown quantity in the Khmer Rouge at that time, May 1970, and yet they still took stupid risks to get their scoop. They ended up losing their lives.

The film also covers the story of Sean Flynn and Dana Stone, two gung-ho photographers who were last seen riding off on their motorbikes looking for a story. Flynn was actor Errol Flynn's son. Again, too many risks in a country that was far too volatile to second-guess.