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Tuesday
Aug272019

'A War Story'

How many of you I wonder, who sat down to watch  A War Story on TV1 on Sunday night, and were reminded of the extraordinary exploits of New Zealander Peter Arnett understood the 'back-story’ of just how this came about.

Of course, you  may have known that it was produced by a New Zealand company – Making Movies, and that it was shot in the Maniototo, with some of the tense border scenes in Viaduct Basin. Also, that the extremely chilling performances by the Afghan soldiers and insurgents were actually by Afghani immigrants who relished the opportunity to portray the scenes from their country.

Perhaps the well graded roads were a ‘giveaway,’ but I for one was taken in, and completely absorbed by the performances of the actors taking the parts of Osama Bin Laden, and Arnett. A review this morning questions the authenticity of Arnett’s claims of his ‘love’ for his adopted homeland.  But such criticism ignores the context of 2001, and Arnett’s particular circumstances as a highly respected, naturalized American, Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent.

I have a particular interest in the circumstances surrounding the production for three  reasons.

We were as near as dammit to the scene on 2/11/2001, exactly one week prior to the fateful day. We stood on the small outside viewing area on Tower 2 at around 10am (it was seldom open, and numbers restricted). I recall looking along Broadway, up the Manhattan ‘valley’ to Central Park, and fleetingly wondered what damage a Cessna flying too close could do.

And exactly one week later, still suffering from 'jet-lag,' I was working late in our Darwin apartment when the first news came through. We both sat and watched as the disaster unfolded before our eyes in ‘real time’ – including watching as the second aircraft hit the other tower, and later as the two plummeted to the ground.

It really did feel as if the entire World had entered a new phase, with the millennium to follow!. Sleep was ‘out of the question.’  We returned to the new tower in 2014 as it was opened, but it could not possibly leave the same impression other than as a memorial.

My second remote connection is that I attended Waitaki Boy’s High School with Peter Arnett – he was a boarder - a couple of forms ahead of me, and something of an athlete – an object of some admiration. He left school a little early to go to the Southland Times as a cadet, and where he leant his trade the hard way – the only way in those days. His typing skills were certainly better than mine!.

My third and last tenuous connection is that my nephew, James Heyward, was the Executive Producer of  ‘A War Story,’  and has carried responsivity for its production from the outset. He now has the unenviable task of marketing the program in countries that really don’t wish to be reminded of Bin Laden, or Al Queda.

Arnett has faded into history – just another War Story, though his seminal "Live  From The Battlefield" (Vietnam) will live on as the text for all aspiring war correspondents.

 

 

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