The Sydney Morning Herald
National Film Editor
October 26, 2015
"One night in Brooklyn I woke and heard somebody screaming blue murder, and suddenly realised it was me." Michael Ware
Only the Dead documents the experiences of Australian war correspondent Michael Ware in the Iraq War, which he covered for almost seven years. Photo: TransmissionAs Baghdad bureau chief for CNN, Michael Ware was living a life almost unimaginable to a working-class boy from the suburbs of Brisbane, or to the lawyer he later became before finding his way into journalism.
"I had a private army of 50 people," he says over a few drinks in the bar of the Cinema Nova, where his documentary Only the Dead will screen from Thursday. "I had checkpoints set up at either end of the street because we always knew the car bomb was coming – what we wanted was stand-off, so that when it did come it wouldn't be able to get too close."
"I turned to all sorts of things to try to find some kind of relief. I just wanted the pain to stop, anything that would give me some pause from the demons that surrounded me constantly."
For years, he couldn't sleep, and even when he could it was no better. "One night in Brooklyn I woke and heard somebody screaming blue murder, and suddenly realised it was me." While wrestling with his demons, he had torn his shoulder. "For a period of time there, you had to be very careful how you woke me," he says.
He did the equivalent of seven tours of duty in Iraq – first as a print correspondent for Time, then as the man trying to help American audiences make sense of the war on television every night. He finally left in 2009, but only began to emerge from the darkness in 2012, when he penned a piece for Newsweek after two former colleagues were killed.
A month later, he wrote a piece on post traumatic stress disorder. "It begins: 'I should be dead; I wish I was'," he recalls. It was a major turning point, he says now. In writing it, he rediscovered his will to stay alive.
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