June 2015

Michael at SFF


"Only the Dead" wins top doc prize at SFF

Courier-Mail piece on Penance Films

A snippet from a Business column by Glen Norris:


QUEENSLAND’S courts, next Hollywood studios? Ex-journo of The Courier-Mail Michael Ware has made a splash with his new documentary Only The Dead, featuring at the Sydney Film Festival.

It’s about the Iraq War and Ware’s reporting from there, where he earned kudos for his work with Time and CNN.

What is little known is one of the early supporters of the film is Brisbane barrister Christopher Johnstone, a mate of Ware’s from university and rugby days. Johnstone and Ware along with Ware’s partner Justine Rosenthal, are involved with Penance Films, which was one of the production companies for the flick. And you thought all the courtroom drama was with LA Law.

Michael with Hugh Riminton at SFF


Daily Telegraph: Aussie reporter lived and filmed with al-Qaeda

“WARE is an authority on the enemy. He knows more about them than our own intelligence officers. I hang on every word and try to remember everything he tells us. It is the best, most comprehensive discussion I’ve heard about the enemy since arriving in Iraq. And it comes from a f*king reporter.”

US Army Staff Sergeant and Silver Star recipient David Bellavia’s appraisal of Australian journalist Michael Ware
during the Battle of Fallujah in November, 2004, speaks volumes.

Not just about the inadequacy of official military intelligence at the time, but about how one journalist’s dogged determination to get to the root of the war won him the kind of access to both sides of the conflict that few people ever saw.

The hundreds of hours of camcorder footage Ware consequently captured in the combat zone and behind enemy lines form the basis for the 46-year-old’s first documentary,
Only The Dead, premiering next week at the Sydney Film Festival.

It is frightening, visceral, disturbing.


The Australian: Sydney film festival: Only The Dead calls fights, camera, action

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Michael Ware and Justine Rosenthal saw a potent film within the camcorder footage
Ware captured during the Iraq War.
Picture: Renee Nowytarger
Source: News Corp Australia

Michael Ware and Justine Rosenthal have seen too much of war.

Ware embedded himself for CNN and Time in the worst of the Middle East after 9/11, primarily covering the hunt for al-Qa’ida. And Rosenthal had a prime career in US foreign affairs and treasury before moving to editing at Time and Newsweek.


Daily Telegraph: Confronting documentary Only the Dead provides frontline seats to war’s brutal reality

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Michael Ware, in front of the Victory Arch in Baghdad, was almost beheaded. Picture: Yuri Kosyrev

THE terrifying moments of being snatched off an Iraqi street and threatened with beheading by al-Qaeda have been captured by an Australian documentary filmmaker.

Conflict journalist Michael Ware directed documentary Only the Dead, which premiered at Event Cinemas on George St last night as part of the Sydney Film Festival.

The movie, one of 10 competing for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award, follows the former CNN reporter as he builds contacts with al-Qaeda insurgents, particularly the terrorist group’s founder in Iraq — Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.


Speaking with Ben Fordham on 2gb Radio

Michael on the radio in Sydney, listen to the show here.

Herald Sun article about IS recruiting

Michael is quoted in an article about Westerners fighting for IS:

CNN correspondent Michael Ware.

In terms of how “the dark masters of the art” of propaganda get their recruits online, Ware says, “it’s not like there’s a man in an overcoat offering candy”.

“The first step is self-motivated. A young Australian has to actively go on social media and seek out an Islamic recruiter,” he says. “It’s then the process of indoctrination begins as they help facilitate travel to the war zone in the Islamic State.”

As the only known westerner to be kidnapped by al-Qa’ida and survive, Ware says there is “no frame of reference in Australia” for what recruits face there.

“It’s one thing to read their Twitter feeds and to watch their propaganda videos, but until you actually see it, feel it and breathe it, there is no possible way to understand what life is like within the society that these Islamic militants create”, he says.

Even those who go for humanitarian purposes, like Perth doctor Tareq Kamleh who joined ISIS in Syria earlier this year, face life-threatening dangers.

“If you are working in a hospital where the US, Brits, French or Jordanians believe there is a military headquarters or military presence, they’ll drop a 500-pound bomb on that hospital,” he says. “You’re also exposed to Syrian regime attacks on the local population. Like in any war zone, death is constantly around everybody.”

After seven years on assignment in Iraq, Brisbane-born Ware, 46, has made the confronting war documentary, Only the Dead. The title comes from the expression, “only the dead have seen the end of war”.

Already attracting global attention, the 77-minute film, much of it shot by Ware using a $300 Handycam, premieres this weekend at the Sydney Film Festival.

“Our film will take you to war,” Ware says. “It shows the most intimate combat footage ever recorded in Iraq. You want to understand what is happening now, then watch the documentary.”

For years the gritty footage he accumulated was stowed in Tupperware boxes under his mother’s bed in Brisbane after returning from assignment.

So what does he see as the solution to more and more Aussies wanting to head off to fight with ISIS?

“We need to rob the IS of the motivation to drive our children to join them,” he says. “The only way we are going to do that is to engage with our own Muslims. These young men and women feel disconnected from Australian society because of the way we treat them. Take away that sense of grievance and injustice and you take away the motivation to go and join something like IS.”

The full article is here.

Australian: Michael Ware opens up about his experiences in Iraq in documentary Only The Dead

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Michael Ware being interviewed on Lateline. Source: Supplied

AS AN ambitious young journalist Michael Ware “couldn’t be happier” to be in Iraq covering the US occupation but after surviving a beheading attempt and witnessing true moments of horror, he began to feel complicit in the violence around him.

The Australian journalist is the only war correspondent to survive being kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Iraq, and became obsessed with its founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He has opened up about his experiences in the film Only The Dead, which is showing at the Sydney Film Festival.


ABC (AU) interview on Lateline [UPDATED]

Michael was interviewed on Australian television program Lateline about his film Only the Dead and the rise of IS. The clip is online here, and a transcript is posted as well.

Lateline also created a series of promo photos/quotes that they tweeted…