WAR REPORTER: For over 40 years, Robert Fisk has reported on some of the most violent and divisive conflicts in the world.

Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: November 18, 2019

This is Not a Movie

Yung Chang

Anita LeeAllyson LuchakNelofer PaziraIngmar Trost

Canada, Germany

«I begin to wonder why I went into journalism,» says Robert Fisk at the start of This Is Not A Movie, as he runs to the safety of his car after grenade blast near the Iran-Iraq border in 1980. The comment is a wry aside but especially apt, as this portrait of Fisk’s career from shapes up to be a thought-provoking meditation on the uses and limitations of war reporting, as much as it is a glowing tribute to the high-profile British investigative journalist and columnist himself. There is much footage as jolting as the opening, but rather than getting swamped by the sheer immensity of what Fisk has experienced over a decades-long career primarily covering the Middle East, the film adeptly draws out thematic threads about the meaning, or rather futility, of war, and our urge to tell its stories. Conversations with him in the comfort of his Beirut apartment are just as insightful on the nature of his work as what we see on the frontlines; after all, despite Fisk’s obvious bravery, he is not one for shallow bravado.

This is Not a Movie-Robert Fisk-post1
Fisk in a Jewish colony with its Israeli architect, 2018 © TINAM Inc/Sutor Kolonko/NFB

Contrary to the official line

Notepad in hand, roaming away from his fixer into alleyways, and chatting to locals, Fisk is the quintessential image of the old-school, on-the-ground reporter. If you don’t go to a scene and witness it with your own eyes, «sniff it». Now that so little journalism is fact-checked on the internet, this type is more important than ever — and less respected by profit-preoccupied media barons. The honouring of firsthand facts includes an imperative to always tell the truth, and the courage to monitor and challenge the centres of power, no matter how unpopular this makes you. It is an idealism that Fisk expresses with a certain matter-of-factness and lack of bluster; indeed, he has a track record of reporting contrary to the official line of western political power brokers to back it up.


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