by Matt Ellison
On Wednesday, October 18, 2017 the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Culture and Politics Program hosted a screening of the acclaimed documentary film National Bird that was followed by a discussion with the film’s director Sonia Kennebeck. National Bird follows three whistleblowers determined to speak out around one of the most controversial issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war, which has been waged globally for more than a decade. The film explores the complexities of drone warfare from a human perspective. Professors Katherine Chandler and Mubbashir Rizvi engaged in a discussion with Kennebeck and moderated a Q&A with the audience.
“We have realized there are a lot of misconceptions about drones and the drone war,” Kennebeck said. “Definitely, there’s a good number of people who are surprised by the size of drones and people actually think drones are much smaller. They say, they don’t carry bombs, right?”
“One of the things that’s incredible about this film is the way it shows the deep humanness of the technological system and the ways in which human lives are deeply entangled in something we consider to be a technical system,” Professor Chandler said.
“Until 2013, the U.S. government didn’t formally accept drones as a weapon technology,” Professor Rizvi said. “You had this absurd situation where everyone knows what’s happening, but the government doesn’t accept responsibility for it until the whistleblowers came out around 2013.”