National Bird

Synopsis: National Bird follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers who are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial current affairs issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, they decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences. Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption. National Bird gives rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors, connecting their stories as never seen before in a documentary. Its images haunt the audience and bring a faraway issue close to home.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Sonia Kennebeck
Production: Ten Forward Films
  3 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
92 min

You were omniscient

in people's lives.

And you've literally just

kind of hover over their area.

And sometimes you would

watch them for days

and then you'd have intel that...

That this guy is a bad guy.

And you would wait

until he walks out

to the field to meet with

some friends for something

and you'd blow him up.

Drop a hellfire missile on him.

Are you guys going to have

anything to drink tonight?

Uh, yes,

water [inaudible].

All right, here you go.

And the bottled water is back

there if you wanna grab one.

Thanks guys, have a good night.

I originally was

interested in the Navy

at first because the

guy that I was dating

had been in the Navy.

And I was like, oh, maybe

I'll just join the Navy.

And you know, travel

and see the world.

And fight for my country and

protect people from terrorists.

And I ended up being

recruited into the Air Force

because I actually saw the

posters with the drones.

and I was like, "Wow,

that is so cool."

Like, unmanned aircraft,

like, that's really badass.

And I was still, like, under

the impression that America

was saving the world.

Like, that we were

big brother and we

were helping everyone out.

So when I saw this possibility

that I could get out of,

like, this small town that I was

in, and get out of Pennsylvania

and... and just travel,

and... and I thought that

was the only way to do it.

And they didn't make it

seem like you wouldn't

be... that one of your only

options of places to go

is Afghanistan.


Titan 1-4,

hold your position.

What have you got?

Unmanned aircraft is

identifying enemy sniper.

Copy that.

Let's move.

I was in

the military prior

to being in massage school...

I got out two years ago.

I was in Air Force Intelligence.

I flew the drones.

I was part of a unit that...

We fought in Afghanistan.

And I've lost

friends to the war.

I've lost friends to suicide

that were a part of that unit.

And I've seen a lot of

people die in the war.

So for me I brought to

the massage table pain.

And just absolute despair.

And memories, like,

horrible memories.

And along with

that is an anxiety

disorder and a sleep disorder.

And I thought, you know, I came

here I think, subconsciously

looking for healing for myself.

To be able to find

something that in learning

to heal other people maybe

I could heal myself as well.

It was like slow

motion. And it was

like, you're watching

someone just drag

themselves across the field.

When you watch someone

in those dying moments,

what their reaction is,

how they're reacting

and what they're doing,

[sighs] it's so primitive.

It's really raw,

stripped down death.

That's what it is.

This is real. Like,

this isn't... it's not a joke.

I have specific memories of many

of them that I know I killed.

But it's so messy and, like,

they don't report it down to us

who we kill.

Maybe we kill our objective,

maybe we kill a guy who

we thought was our objective.

You don't know.

And I can say the drone program's

wrong because I don't know

how many people I've killed.

After we do a strike I

would ask for a break

and, like, go outside and smoke

a cigarette and just think.

And like, try to

decompress and just try

to push the, like, idea that

I was involved in killing

people out of my mind.

And I try not to think about it.

Sometimes if I

couldn't really get out

of the situation for very long,

I would just go to the bathroom

and... and just

sit on the toilet.

Like just sit there in my

uniform, and just, like, cry.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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