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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #60: Dan Krauss Examines Heinous War Crimes In 'The Kill Team'

By Indiewire | Indiewire April 18, 2013 at 2:28PM

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.
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Kill team director

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.

This article is related to: Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers






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