A Private War (released 01.02.19 in the UK), directed by Matthew Heineman, has put light onto the life and work of Marie Colvin (played by Rosamund Pike). Colvin was foreign an affairs correspondent for The Sunday Times and died while covering the siege of Homs in Syria.
“Why is the world not here?” was Colvin’s repeated question as she ventured into the most deadly, disregarded areas of conflict. The answer from the film seems to be that Colvin was, unlike most, willing to put her life and mental wellbeing on the line to fulfil her “mission […] to speak the truth to power”.
Through the film we see her battle mental and physical ‘private wars’ in the conflicts she was encircled in. We see her in Sri Lanka, where she lost an eye in a grenade attack. Colvin, from then on, adopted her iconic black eye patch. Teaming up with soldier-turned-photographer Paul Conroy she travelled to Fallujah in Iraq, uncovering humanitarian crimes. She became consumed by PTSD, which she subdued with alcohol and a regime of chain smoking. But Colvin continued to gravitate to more danger zones: Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. For her “fear came later”.
A Private War displays what Colvin did best: giving a powerful voice to the plight of the innocent victims of conflict. She was fearless and refused to become the subject of the stories she was reporting. This is perhaps the irony of the film that places her at centre stage. However, in a time where the news and journalism are under fire, with journalists, across the spectrum, being degraded and condemned by populists fixed on annihilating the very concept of truth, Colvin’s story and clear value of truth seem to be more relevant than ever.
With editorial roles in The Print becoming available in a short time, consider the importance you could have.
You may wonder: Student journalism? If we can’t deliver such mass scale stories, why do we bother?
While you might not be writing from war zones, A Private War shows the pivotal role of any level of journalist: to deliver information, opinions and truth to the wider public. Student publications allow one to intensively write on matters that one cares for and the wider student community. They allow important dialogues to be set up.
It is a safe place to make mistakes. Mistakes in tone. Mistakes in reporting. Mistakes in writing. Making mistakes are considerably important to getting better; not just at journalism but also in your general communication of ideas.
Student journalism is a peer-to-peer discussion. It is us telling students the news which affects them. Encouraging students to engage with what’s going on around them. Whether through reading or writing, student journalism is pivotal in creating a generation who can applaud individuals and groups but also hold them to account.