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April 18, 2013 2:28 PM
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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #60: Dan Krauss Examines Heinous War Crimes In 'The Kill Team'

In 2010, the Army was rocked by the arrest of five American soldiers in Afghanistan who were arrested and charged for murder for reportedly killing Afghan citizens for sport. Longtime documentary cinematographer Dan Krauss ("The Death of Kevin Carter") was on hand to document the fallout and Spc. Adam Winfield's battle against his charges.

What It's About: A soldier tries to stop his platoon from murdering Afghan civilians but ends up the target of one of the largest war crimes probes in US history.

What I Hope Tribeca Audiences Take Away: I would like audiences to come away with a deeper appreciation of the moral complexities we are asking very young men and women to confront, often in the blink of an eye.

There is a concept just starting to enter the public consciousness termed “moral injury.” It refers to a psychological wound that comes from having taken an action – or not prevented an action – that is a betrayal of one’s core moral values.

Soldiers are frequently forced to weigh competing moral priorities, which is profoundly challenging, especially for young people with limited life experience. Being forced to make a life and death decision under these circumstances can be incredibly damaging – not just in that moment – but in the months and years afterward, when soldiers replay in their minds over and over again the choices they made or failed to make.


Challenges: Access was incredibly challenging. This is a story that had been largely impenetrable to the media. The Army had placed very tight restrictions on the soldiers who were charged, making it impossible to contact them. And because of the sensitivity of the cases, all official channels were on lockdown. I needed another way in.

I found my opportunity while discussing the case with Adam Winfield’s defense attorney, who mentioned he had a need for a videographer. I offered my services pro bono and a month later, I found myself at Fort Lewis, sitting face-to-face with Adam Winfield, his legs in shackles. In the weeks that followed, my bond with Adam and his family deepened. Along the way, I raised the possibility of a documentary project and they all immediately saw the value in this story being shared in a fuller, more complex way.

What Inspired You?: "The Times of Harvey Milk" was a seminal film for me. It was the first time I had seen an interview-driven film that felt truly rooted in character. And I’ve since become a student of the documentary interview. When it’s done right, it can take you deep inside the human psyche – and I find that an exhilarating place to be. To this day, I still become intensely frustrated when critics dismiss a film for employing “talking head” interviews. "Harvey Milk" proves that talking heads are only boring when they say boring things.

In the Works: I have been working for a number of years on a documentary about the late artist Jeremy Blake, who became media fodder after he and his longtime love Theresa Duncan both took their own lives after suffering some sort of psychotic break.

I see the film as a portrait of the creative psyche. It’s a very different film for me because I’m trying to make it experiential. I’m blending documentary materials, Jeremy’s dreamlike video paintings, and imagined point-of-view scenes to take us inside Jeremy’s mind. His family is very supportive of the project and has been incredibly generous, allowing me to use not only his artwork but also his personal materials.

Indiewire invited Tribeca 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 April 17 for the latest profiles.

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2 Comments

  • Alicia | May 28, 2013 5:52 PMReply

    Summary: Krauss master of manipulation
    Its a manipulation! A Bias film VOID OF ALL FACTS as well as the entire story! Dissected with tiny pieces taken out to be reshaped into lies that portray this film makers personal ignorant Anti Military attitude! He plays on the clown media of Rolling Stone sensationalized clueless media coverage that demanded they all be burned at the stake! This is a unfair and poor excuse for a film. The true part of the story, the whole picture is not covered in his misshaped documentary. It doesn't cover the facts that even though these few soldiers saw little action, the rest of the Brigade Saw too much! They lost over 45 friends, teammates and brothers by the local afghan civilians who were actually the ones hunting them for sport when they were only trying to help the country. This one soldier had multiple deployments where he watched his brothers die horrible deaths by the hands of the locals. This was a isolated incident!!! In no way can you generalize or be allowed to exaggerate this. That is complete ignorance! Krauss is certainly no authority in predicting future military behavior! I cant believe the arrogance of Dan Krauss, when he is clueless to what it was that actually took place in Afghanistan!

  • Alicia | May 25, 2013 2:21 AMReply

    HOW DARE YOU DISGRACE ALL THE SOLDIERS THAT LOST THEIR LIVES IN 5-2 ID to the local Afghan civilians!!! Hello You who have never been in a War Zone. You who are in fact clueless! War or war zones are not for the weak! The general population is unable to handle or grasp the reality of war and what military live on a daily basis!
    You reading this who may watch this documentary have never been in a war zone and are completely clueless!
    It seems "You" DID SERIOUSLY HAVE NO IDEA THAT LOCAL AFGHANS WERE MURDERING US SOLDIERS! To call the locals innocent when most were not is disgusting!
    I also would not call what happened in 5-2ID a war crime!
    That's a oxymoron if there ever was one! I resent any dumbass who calls it that. HELLO, YEAH RIGHT HERE!
    "IT WAS A FUCKING WAR ZONE"!!!
    2009-2010 was one of the most violent years among local Afghan civilians attacking and KILLING NATO soldiers and bases!
    The act by one 5-2ID soldier may be considerd a little overboard to the clueless and emotionally detached to what our soldiers actually go through!
    BUT THAT IS NO EXCUSE TO IGNORE ALTOGETHER WHAT OUR BRAVE SOLDIERS EXPERIENCE AND WHAT THE LOCALS ACTUALLY DO!
    If anything it should make us wonder a little more about what soldiers are forced to put up with and the real story of locals attacking US Troops at ANY "GIVEN" opportunity!
    Scenarios from Iraq and Afghanistan may be different but all have the commonality of Military being attacked and killed in gruesome ways by the locals (including kids, teens and adults) of the country we are trying to help!
    In 5-2ID Our soldiers, brothers, friends were being killed, MURDERED EVERYWHERE in horrible ways by these local afghani shitheads!
    THERE ARE SO MANY DETAILS NOT BEING BROUGHT TO LIGHT ABOUT THE LOCALS OR AFGHAN CIVILIANS!
    The pressure the stress the anger of them getting away with killing 5-2 Soldiers horrifically and every other NATO SOLDIER BROUGHT OVER, took its toll on some of these guys who actually CARED ABOUT THEIR FRIENDS AND BROTHERS BEING KILLED AROUND THEM.
    They had enough of the bullshit orders and US and NATO policy's that WERE CARELESSLY AND CALLOUSLY ADVOCATING OUR SOLDIERS DEATHS!!! How can you win the hearts and minds
    (of lying, stupid, uneducated, unstable, untrustworthy corrupt afghanis and ANA that will shoot you in the back with no thought)
    of those who have neither?
    AGAIN HOW CAN YOU WIN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THOSE THAT DON'T POSSESS THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE?
    AT LEAST NOT FOR PEACE WITHIN THEIR OWN COUNTRY OR FOR US/NATO SOLDIERS TRYING TO HELP THEM BECOME A STRUCTURED PEACEFUL COUNTRY! THEY DONT WANT IT! THOUGH THEY DEFINITELY WANT AND HAVE A MIND AND HEART FOR LITTLE BOYS OR SHEEPS ASSES AND FOR NEEDLESSLY ABUSING WOMEN, YOUNG GIRLS AND KILLING EACH OTHER!
    THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS ARE INSTEAD TWO FACES WHICH THEY USE TO THEIR ADVANTAGE!!! One face they use to pretend they want our help when in fact its really for the free weapons, training and getting our average intel! The other face is turned against us using the knowledge we gave them to further corrupt their country!
    When the face was turned against us we could use NO, NONE to ONLY proportionate force (if fired upon). Soldiers couldn't even take out obvious IED placers etc! So many IEDs stay put to kill the next group of soldier that cross its path!
    Winfield in my opinion was a scared sissy ass poor excuse for a private/Spc who DOSENT UNDERSTAND CHOICES AND WAR (he was never cut out to be in the military in the first place!!!)
    This film sees like it might cover young kids not emotionally stable for war which is good because that is a problem! Kids trying to join who shouldn't, not realizing they are taking on a real life situation where you have to make life and death decisions to stay alive! THE REAL LIVE SHIT, not the video game your mom bought you!
    Our soldiers never should have been convicted! Especially by shit head officers and blood thirsty media (who never experienced combat) who don't understand what it is actually like to be a true soldier physically fighting for your brothers and your country! But instead are the ones making the policys that kill them!
    SO MANY OF OUR GUYS JUST FROM 5-2ID WERE KILLED, MURDERED BY LOCAL AFGHAN CIVILIANS! YET NO-ONE SEEMS TO GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THEM OR WANT TO TELL THEIR STORIES!!! WHY? THAT IS THE REAL QUESTION! THAT IS THE QUESTION THAT SHOULD BE THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS DOCUMENTARY! Not who is the piss poor wannabe named Winfield. All of these Soldiers should be exonerated due to PTSD and OH YEAH as well as the fact IT WAS A FUCKING WAR!!!