Photojournalists "Witness" war zones in new HBO series

Fri Nov 2, 2012 6:34pm EDT
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By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some people liken a bad day at work to being in a war zone but for the photojournalists chronicled in HBO's upcoming documentary series "Witness," that's not an exaggeration.

The series, which premieres on November 5 and will air every Monday for the rest of the month, follows photojournalists in Mexico, Libya, South Sudan and Brazil as they navigate violence to report issues such as drug trafficking, gang violence, corruption, and ethnic warfare.

Executive producers Michael Mann and David Frankham said that the series arose from the desire to give viewers a sense of life in these areas that is more comprehensive than most television news programs.

"It really was a reaction to a frustration with the news, a frustration with things being summed up for us in a minute, 30 seconds," Frankham, who also directed most of the segments, said in an interview.

While the series focuses on the experiences of photojournalists, it also strives to illuminate the dynamics of each area's conflict. Frankam hopes the approach will draw in viewers who might not ordinarily be interested in the countries covered. He calls the format of the series "a Trojan horse."

From camping in the forest with a militia hunting Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in South Sudan to creeping around the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro in the dark to unearth bodies stuffed in wells or burned beyond recognition, "Witness" aims to show the lengths photojournalists go to convey what is happening in conflict zones.

"Sometimes it can be quite violent. Sometimes there can be other people in harm's way. Sometimes there's a whole lot of tough decisions that need to be made, and it's quite a struggle," Frankham said. "These pictures don't just happen in front of them."


The logo for HBO,Home Box Office, the American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner, is pictured during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser