A Private War & Opening Night at the Mill Valley Film Festival

Thursday night, I attended one of the two opening night screenings at the Mill Valley Film Festival. I chose A Private War over Green Book.

But before I get to the movie, I want to comment on something that bothers me at all the big film festivals. Although they bend left politically, their ticket sales policies create a class system. Spend more money on a ticket, and you get a better seat. At Mill Valley, ticket holders are separated into three categories, A, B, and C, which could be called Aristocrats, Middle Class, and Peasants. Spend enough money, and you stake out your seat before the peons enter the theater.

I understand that the festivals need the extra money from this system. But I wish it wasn’t so.

Okay, so much for my rant. Now let’s get to the movie:

You can’t frequently place yourself in danger without emotional scars – even if you’re doing it for the best possible reasons. Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike in an outstanding performance) may have been the most courageous news reporter in the history of journalism, running into war zones to report on the carnage. Screenwriter Arash Amel and director Matthew Heineman turn eleven years of her life (from when she lost an eye in Sri Lanka to when she lost her life in Syria) into a study of a driven, fearless, empathetic, but emotionally broken human being. [Note: I corrected this paragraph hours after posting it.]

I give the film an A.

After the screening, Amel, Heineman, and Pike came on stage for a Q&A. Some highlights, edited for brevity and clarity:

  • Amel: I came to the story as a child of war. I spent my childhood in the middle east. I remember the air-raid sirens. I remember the terror.
  • Heineman: My background is in documentaries [a form of journalism]. She’s a legend and I found an enormous amount of empathy for her.
  • Pike, on understanding the role: I knew who she was. She left all her wedding presents unopened below the stairs. She wanted that domesticity but she couldn’t have it. I understand this woman. I know who she is.
  • The extras were in those countries. They were real women telling real stories about what they’ve lived through.
  • All the war zone scenes were shot in Georgia. We took over an abandoned construction site. We spent a lot of time making it look real.
  • I wanted to get inside of her mind and see how these events affected her. PTSD is a difficult thing to portray.
  • She made her own choices to the very end. She was never someone things happen to.