THE TROUBLES WE'VE SEEN: A HISTORY OF JOURNALISM IN WARTIMENR
As the wordy subtitle suggests, the 1994 documentary The Troubles We've Seen covers an entire history of journalism in wartime, although the war in Serbia was the most pressing and topical during the 1993 filming. Thus, Marcel Ophuls begins his nearly four-hour opus with snatches of interviews from that conflict (including a dicey exchange with Slobodan Milosevic, before his war crimes trial!). As in his previous masterworks, The Sorrow and the Pity and Hotel Terminus, Ophuls himself does the on-camera questioning in intellectual cat-and-mouse style. Those looking for the crusading Nazi hunter in Ophuls may be slightly disappointed to find him on more neutral ground with most of his subjects, fellow reporters like John Burns (The New York Times) and Christiane Amanpour (CNN), plus lesser-known journalists and photographers.
Nonetheless, several fiery debates emerge regarding reporting ethics. (Should a reporter involve himself or herself in what they are covering? Should a photographer fake a shot for the good of advancing a story?) These moments between Ophuls and the reporters not only contribute to an interesting history lesson (Robert Capa's Spanish Civil War work is fully examined), but they also make compelling screen drama, especially as the Sarajevo sniper fire becomes a regular background element during many of the interviews.
Patient viewers will be rewarded with a broad and multi-faceted investigation, yet those unfamiliar with Ophuls' characteristic approach may be frustrated by the extensive running time and seemingly rambling structure or bemused by the interpolation of archival film clips (e.g., Warner Bros.' Yankee Doodle Dandy and his own father Max Ophuls' From Mayerling to Sarajevo), which serve more as a source of irony than illustration. (His father's film, for example, produced on the eve of World War II, depicts the assassination that led to World War I, and Marcel Ophuls later sighs on screen, "History never ends.") The continual concentration of focus on Western, English-speaking journalists may annoy some in the director's own leftist camp, but there is no confusing where Ophuls' sympathies lie.
The Troubles We've Seen is a great film, long overdue here in the U.S., because it speaks so eloquently about war and how much news coverage can affect the conflicts, the cultures, and even history itself.