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National Bird

In Sonia Kennebeck's documentary NATIONAL BIRD three whistleblowers speak out about how traumatizing it was working with “surgical precision weapons,” better known as war drones.


In 2013 the Guardian published an article that showcased the experiences of air force veteran Heather Linebaugh, a a former video analyst in the US drone program. Linebaugh discusses how traumatizing the job was and how she also had to record the aftermath of the drone attacks. This strayed from the propaganda image of drones being surgical, precise weapons. Linebaugh doesn’t reveal any military secrets, but she broke a taboo as it is strictly forbidden for members of the US armed forces to talk about their operations. The same goes for the other two whistleblowers that get a chance to speak in Sonia Kennebeck’s documentary NATIONAL BIRD, the former signal intelligence analyst Daniel, who tracked Afghanistan targets in the drone program, and IT technician Lisa, who was collecting data from drone surveillance. All three are in danger of being sued for betraying state secrets. Daniel, who is politically engaged, was arrested and sued.

It becomes clear from the whistleblowers that the findings from drone operations are much less precise than the propaganda would lead us to believe. The images aren’t sharp, a spade can easily be mistaken for a weapon, and there are always conflicts between the video analysts, the drone pilots, and the shooters. NATIONAL BIRD focuses on the traumatic experiences of US soldiers, and an encounter with an Afghani family who was shot at by a drone while they were on a trip, only happens towards the end of the film. It was an attack in which many family members lost their lives while others were severely injured and traumatized.

Hannes Stein

Translation: Elinor Lewy


USA 2016, 92 min
Genre: Documentary
Director: Sonia Kennebeck
Author: Sonia Kennebeck
DOP: Torsten Lapp
Music: Insa Rudolph
Distributor: NFP marketing & distribution
FSK: 12
Release: 18.05.2017




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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