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EYES IN THE SKY: Interview with drone war documentary director Sonia Kennebeck


EYES IN THE SKY: The disturbing new documentary National Bird examines the myths and realities of America’s highly secret drone war program.

Drone warfare has always offered a very attractive alternative to conventional battle.

With their operators often sitting half a world away, aerial robots can locate the enemy with pinpoint accuracy and kill them without ever putting friendly troops at risk.

Yet while waging war in such a remote-controlled way has many benefits, the ethics and human cost of drone war have gone largely unreported.

In National Bird: Drone Wars, director Sonia Kennebeck, a New York-based investigative reporter, takes a fresh look at the realities of America’s deployment of drones through the carefully legalled testimonies of three former operators.

The results are illuminating and often disturbing.

One witness, Heather, had the job of analysing drone imagery to determine whether the people on the ground were legitimate targets. She tells of how eager many of the drone crews were to fire missiles before conclusive evidence was in.

A frail woman in her 20s, Heather also reconfigures our traditional image of what a war veteran looks like.

Though she never left her homeland to step onto a live battlefield, the nature of her work and the hundreds of deaths she might have been responsible for play on her mind constantly. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, due largely to the uncertainty of how many innocents might have died because of her.

In this interview, Kennebeck discusses the issues raised by the film, how legally difficult it was to make and what impact it is having. 

She also stresses that she is a documentarian, not an activist, and that the film is not intended to dismiss out-of-hand the use of drones in peace or in war. What is needed, she argues, is strict oversight and a much tighter set of rules.

National Bird: Drone Wars screens at ACMI 6.10pm Friday, 1.30pm Sunday, 3.10pm Monday.

The film is part of ACMI’s Secrets and Lies program. For more details visit:

To view the interview with Sonia Kennebeck, please click here:

To view a trailer for National Bird: Drone Wars, please click here: