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4.9 out of 5 stars86
4.9 out of 5 stars
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There has been a public perception of war photographers as being voyeuristic ghouls who intrude heartlessly into peoples most intimate and grief stricken moments. A perception not without some foundation on occasions! But after you listen to Don McCullin speaking honestly to the camera, that perception is immediately challenged. There were many times that he stepped in to help the wounded and dying. He has seen more evil in this world than any man has a right to, and has remained on the evidence of this documentary an essentially decent man. To emerge from continual immersement in a 'heart of darkness' experience of extreme barbarism still intact is some achievement. Only the mental scars remain which McCullin tells us about in his frank interviews.

This is a documentary that is saturated with the searingly painful, but deeply honest black and white images of Don McCullin's startlingly insightful photography. These are images that tell a story more than any film can ever do. A smiling group of men In Beirut by a dead womans body, with one man incomprehensively playing a lute. Another showing a group of fighters with a dog bizarrely sat happily amongst them. McCullin only ever manufactured one picture in his life, and that was an understandable exception in Vietnam. His photographs reek of honesty and truth. As Robert Capa did for the the Spanish Civil War and the Second world War, McCullin did the same in numerous 20th century conflicts. Cyprus, Vietnam, the Congo, Cambodia, Beirut and the horrors of starving children in Biafra. McCullin was there in the thick of things armed only with his instrument of truth, capturing the real victims of war, the innocents! Pictures that can truly 'paint a thousand words'!

No wonder after Vietnam that governments decided to control such mavericks as McCullin. Those images swayed public opinion so much that there was an outcry against foreign interventions. Nowadays we get a much more sanitised version of events. McCullin became a victim of his own success! But his images live on and so does he! Robert Capa died in Indochina and McCullin himself was fortunate to survive those conflicts with his life. He was a self confessed war junkie who was famed for never shirking from the very heart of the action. Sir Harold Evans a former editor of the Sunday Times and a man of integrity speaks intelligently and with great respect about McCullin's canon of work. Today McCullin is still active taking pictures of the English countryside from his home in deepest rural Somerset, far away from the sound of the guns and the madness. Like me he hates the sound of a chainsaw in the distance as it tolls the death knell for some tree. Sadly when asked in a Parkinson interview if his images have made a difference, he had to give an honest no. Wars continue unabated as they have done from the dawn of time, and will no doubt still rage whilst man exists on this planet. This is a far more powerful anti war statement than any film could hope to achieve. You come away with the uneasy feeling that man is not a great species, despite its capacity for goodness! Beirut Christian militia armed to the teeth with weapons of destruction is a telling image! I once carried weapons of death, but no more thank God! This documentary just reinforces that thought! Essential viewing!
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I recall reading Don McCullin's autobiography, Unreasonable Behaviour and feeling so taken in by the book that I actually wrote to him to say that I hope that he could lay his demons to rest. Watching this film bought all those emotions back again and it seems that Don McCullins demons are still their and he feels as shocked and apprehensive about War and being there as he ever did.

Now, don't think this is a depressing documentary. It isn't. If anything its uplifting and inspirational. I just want to go out there and take more images on my camera. This film does that for you. I don't mean I want to shoot war and Don McCullin didn't and does just do war. he photographs landscapes, street photography and also has had a recent book about ancient Rome.

The documentary has depth. It is 1 hour 30 minutes long and for me that just wasn't long enough. However there is approximately another 30 minutes of scenes not used and these should be watched as they also help the documentary and you get a better feel for Don McCullin.

This will be a keeper for me and look forward to watching it with my other DVD on Cartier-BBression, Ansel Adams, Annie Liebowitz an Paul Strand. Don McCullin deserves to be added to that majestic role call.
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on 10 January 2013
This is an immensely powerful and at times moving documentary about one of the world's foremost photographers, who came from humble, unpromising beginnings to become the top of his profession.
Currently on release at cinemas, it is engrossing and grips the attention of the viewer from the start as McCullin reflects on his time covering wars, conflicts and famine.
His stunning photography is inter-cut with archive film footage, and an early DVD release so soon after the cinema showing is eagerly awaited.

Stephen Simpson
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on 5 February 2013
I had heard McCullin talk at the Oxford Literary Festival a couple of years back and had been very impressed with his work (obviously) but also his articulacy. Of course I had grown up looking at his pictures in the Sunday Times and elsewhere and I knew his name - but had no real feeling for the man behind the name. Fascinating and a very clear, distinct and precise talker.

I thought his pictures of Leptis Magna I saw back then were superb and as I learned more I realise that many of the defining images of conflict (for me) of the past 40 years were his photographs - Vietnam of course, but also Biafra, Lebanon, London (not so much conflict but amazing pictures of a passing world) and many others.

He is only a couple of years older than me - so he has been documenting my past - and I found it fascinating and, given his choice of subjects, very moving. The film is stunning - partly because of his lucid commentary but mainly because it takes you back through those horrors that you had managed to forget - Shatila, the Congo, Biafra, and of course - above all - Vietnam.

But there were also conflicts new to me - eg the Greek-Turkish "civil war" in Cyprus which was pretty much the beginning of his career as a war photographer - immensely powerful and moving pictures from a European country

I strongly, strongly recommend this. If you watch it in a cinema then I guess that most audiences will file out as ours did - in silence and thoughtfully.
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on 7 March 2013
Not Hollywood. No Angels to the rescue for the millions torn apart by war. When it went down this Guy was there - not for the glory but as a job of bringing back to those of us reading our Sunday newspaper just how the world was - this before the Internet, Mobile Phones and ready for the next bulletin.

If you use a camera you'll love this as McCullin tells how he got the photos that turned him into a legend.
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on 11 March 2013
Do not presume that this will be only a collection of Don McMullin's extraordinary photographic skills. This is far more than that.
This is a brilliantly edited and very moving record of why Don did what he did, what effect it had on him and, more importantly perhaps, what he believes his unique body of work has achieved in terms of lasting legacy.
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on 8 April 2015
I recently enjoyed a talk by Don McCullin at the Photography Show and much of what he said is beautifully included in this documentary. Harrowing images witness the almost unspeakable barbarity of mankind but more importantly are the lifetime reflections of a humble, thoughtful and compassionate photographer who was the inspiration for me becoming a full time professional myself. The totally candid, easy conversation he had with his interviewer, the considerate filming and wealth of archival material, the walk through history both of famine and conflict, the haunting aftermath in this life story, there is just so much here to praise. The "Out takes" are essential and I can only think that the 90 minute restriction prevented their inclusion, so make sure you watch those as well. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 11 March 2013
An excellent film on McCullin's life,, as he looks back on it now he's in his 70s(?)
Not just a suberb photographer, far more than just the 'war photographer' label that was applied to him, but also clearly a totally honest man and a real humanitatian.
Very, very good and a 'must see'.
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on 4 March 2013
Don McCullin is not only one of Britain's greatest living photographers but he is also a national treasure. This DVD tells his remarkable story and it is one that anyone interested in taking photographs, or photography or visual art needs to watch. If you don't know who Don McCullin is then you clearly did not grow up through the 60s and 70s when the Sunday Times magazine was essential reading by all ages. I can recall being fascinated, transported to distant countries, amazed and shocked by the quality of the photojournalism in the magazine each week. Of course, at the time I had little idea that many of the most compelling photo-stories came from the camera and the pen of Don McCullin. There is a health warning with this DVD. McCullin's personal story is uncomfortable watching and his eye-witness accounts are often searing in their testimony. McCullin explains the challenge of being a witness and at all times the powerlessness or even hopelessness of the situation he was photographing. From Beirut to Belfast and East Berlin to the East End of London (some of my personal favourites amongst his work) McCullin tells his story without hubris or defence. He is an instantly likeable and dare I say urbane individual in the true meaning of the word. Highly recommended, and if like me you are a photographer you will want to be able to dip back into this remarkable life-journey and the images presented on many occasions by owning the DVD rather than renting it.
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on 11 April 2013
I first heard about McCullin when I was queuing to see Django Unchained at Manchester's Cornerhouse Cinema. The usher opened the cinema door to allow people to leave before we could enter. I heard this haunting piano score drifting from the door. This was shortly followed by 40-50 people leaving the cinema screen, around 5 of which had dry eyes, while the rest looked rather haunted and upset. I immediately asked the usher what film this was as my friend made some ironic comment about it being a cheerful film. She replied McCullin. A few weeks later I looked it up online after being reminded of my trip. It was to my total surprise and excitement, being a total photography geek, that I discovered the subject matter and realised I must see this film. I went a few days later.

I will start by saying this is not an easy watch. There are moments in this film that are deeply distressing, but it has been made in the most respectful and dignified way; a style truly befitting of the photographer himself. This film does not aim to shock, however it will all the same. From McCullin's opening lines in the film, you instantly have an insight into his personality and the world in which he has made his career. As an autobiographical film about this humble man's body of work, it performs excellently; but as a exploration into the human psyché and inherent violence in the world it is up there with the best of them.

Overall this is a film for anyone who is interested in journalism or photography and anyone who is, will find it an amazing watch. I think though it transcends the subject matter somewhat and is accessible for a much wider audience. It's exceedingly well produced and directed, steering well clear of the media sensationalism that has surrounded us these days. An unashamedly honest and open look at some of the worlds biggest tragedies and how they have been reported in the media. Well worth the money and the time it takes you to watch it, just don't expect to end with a smile on your face.
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