“Manhunt” director Greg Barker has spent much of his life as a grown man overseas, as a journalist then filmmaker. The 9/11 event shifted his interest largely to stories between Islamic fundamentalism and the U.S. government. He was pressed to ask the question about what we had learned on the eve that Osama bin Laden was captured and killed — not just about our enemy, but about our own nation. If “Zero Dark Thirty” caught your attention, consider “Manhunt” essential viewing.
What It’s About: “A tale of espionage and the moral choices of war, as revealed by the insiders who led the CIA’s secret war against Al Qaeda and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.”
What It’s REALLY About: “I was surprised to discover that many of the bin Laden hunters, from the mid-90s onwards, were women. The broad strokes of their journey are incredible: they were the first to identify bin Laden as a threat, back in the mid-90s, they warned repeatedly that he was going to launch a huge attack on America, then after 9/11 they were the ones who were blamed for letting it happen. Some were dispirited, and some later died in the fight — but this top-secret “Sisterhood” formed the core of the unit that ultimately tracked bin Laden to Abbottabad.”
My Biggest Challenge: “Access. Most of the characters in the film spent their professional lives working in the shadows for the CIA. Tracking these individuals down, building their trust, and convincing them to tell their stories on camera was a long, labor-intensive process that involved face-to-face meetings around the world, from Washington DC to Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The CIA had no approval over the content of the film, though the interviewees themselves had to make sure they weren’t revealing any classified information. In several cases, including a key breakthrough in the hunt for bin Laden, our interviewees were able to get information cleared to publicly discuss for the first time.”
I Want You To Walk Away With Questions: “I’d like people get a sense of complicated, morally ambiguous journey that led to the raid on Abbottabad. Are coercive interrogations torture? When, if ever, is it OK to use these techniques against a terrorist? What moral criteria do you employ when hunting down an individual for a kill/capture operation? The CIA operatives and analysts making these choices were usually not trained soldiers – they were, in many ways, a lot like the rest of us. I hope the film presents the hunt for Bin Laden as a set of choices…and audiences ask themselves what they would do if faced with those choices themselves.”
What I Shot On: Sony F3.
Up Next: “I have a narrative feature in development for HBO Films, “A Rope and Prayer,” based on the book by New York Times correspondent David Rhode and his wife Kristen Mulvihill, about Rhode’s seven-month captivity in the tribal areas of Pakistan, as well as a feature-film version of “Sergio,” and “Revolution,” a feature documentary about the promise and perils of revolutions in the internet age.”
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.