"ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF WAR," WAR CORRESPONDENT MICHAEL WARE'S SEARING ACCOUNT OF WITNESSING THE BIRTH OF ISIS, AND ONE OF THE MOST SHOCKING WAR DOCUMENTARIES TO COME OUT OF IRAQ, DEBUTS MARCH 28 ON HBO
Australian journalist Michael Ware arrived in Baghdad in 2003 as a novice reporter on a three-week assignment to cover the invasion of Iraq. He left seven years later, having gained unprecedented access to the Iraqi insurgency and American troops, as well as a myriad of demons - the after-effects of witnessing seemingly endless, horrific violence.
Examining the Iraq War and its moral consequences through the story of the rise and fall of jihadi terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the progenitor of ISIS, ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF WAR is a harrowing and graphic account from both sides of the war zone, as well as an illuminating window into the origins of a modern terrorist organization. Directed by two-time Oscar(R) winner Bill Guttentag in collaboration with Michael Ware, the documentary debuts just days after the 13th anniversary of the Iraq invasion on MONDAY, MARCH 28 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
Other HBO playdates: March 28 (4:05 a.m.) and 31 (midnight), and April 3 (3:35 p.m.), 7 (9:00 a.m., 5:05 p.m.) and 11 (12:50 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: March 30 (8:00 p.m.) and April 5 (6:30 p.m.), 9 (2:50 p.m.) and 14 (12:30 a.m.)
The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On Demand.
ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF WAR is told through visceral hand-held video footage culled from hundreds of hours that journalist Michael Ware shot while reporting over the course of the war. This unique, on-the-ground view is combined with eye-opening narration for a frank, unsparing look at the Iraq War unlike any before.
"Our intent was to take the viewer on a dramatic and emotional journey through the Iraq war. And unlike fictional films depicting the war, every frame in ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF WAR is real, and this gives the film its intensity and power," says Bill Guttentag.
"We all have dark places buried within," reflects Ware. "I found mine in a war in Iraq." As a novice journalist eager to experience life beyond his small Australian hometown, he recalls being "less afraid of being in a war zone than I was terrified I'd make a fool of myself."
Covering the invasion of Iraq in the hopeful days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Ware, along with the other journalists living in the TIME magazine bureau house in Baghdad, was among the first to realize something was going wrong. A small but growing armed resistance led to an increase in roadside bombs, shootings and, finally, Baghdad's first suicide bomber and a subsequent attack on the U.N. headquarters. As the violence mounted, Ware "[became] possessed by the idea of how someone could do these things."
His curiosity led him into the dark trenches of the Iraqi insurgents, who took him on their strikes in the dead of night and gave him a window into their war. Soon, the rise of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi became personal when Ware received a DVD containing footage of terrorist attacks and suicide bombers' last moments from a Zarqawi contact, making him "an unlikely go-between for anti-Western militants."
Ware was the rare reporter trusted by multiple sides, and put himself in incredible danger. Even after he was kidnapped and nearly executed while documenting Zarqawi's takeover of Haifa Street, Ware admits that despite being traumatized, "The dark idea of [Zarqawi] would not leave my mind."
Ware followed Zarqawi to the city of Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold American forces sought to reclaim. Embedding with American troops, he ducked flying bullets alongside soldiers, leading to the chilling realization that he "no longer cared about dying." Ware then joined American units in Ramadi, "the heart of Zarqawi's" power, known as "the meat grinder" for its grueling conditions and heavy soldier casualties. "There were no winners," Ware says of the troops stationed there. "Just kids on an impossible mission."
Ware's footage captures the violence, fear and confusion that defined the Iraq War in such outposts, as well as his self-described "darkest moment" of the war, which haunted him long after he left the country.
Although the targeted killing of Zarqawi was seen as a major victory, Ware wasn't so sure. "I guess I knew it wasn't really over," he says. "Zarqawi's men kept fighting and so his holy war raged on, the idea he unleashed too powerful to have died with him."
Ware believes his war experiences have changed him forever, noting, "I will always know that at some unknown place, at some forgotten hour, I became a man I never thought I'd be."
The documentary won three 2015 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (the Australian equivalent of the Academy Awards(R)), including Best Direction in a Documentary, and the 2015 Walkley Documentary Award (the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize). The film had its U.S. premiere at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival.
ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF THE WAR was directed by Bill Guttentag and Michael Ware; written by Michael Ware; produced by Patrick McDonald and Michael Ware; executive producer, Justine A. Rosenthal; editor, Jane Moran.