Mead 2016: The (Virtual) Reality of Weapons and War

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A factory worker produces weapons. A soldier uses them. A doctor treats the resulting wounded. A businessman sells trench coats that can withstand a .38-caliber bullet fired at close range.

Meet all of these characters, along with countless others, in Shooting Ourselves, a haunting documentary from Christine Cynn, co-director of Academy-Award nominated The Act of Killing. Making its U.S. premiere at the 2016 Margaret Mead Film Festival, this film presents first-hand accounts of individuals' personal connections to weapons and war.


Shooting Ourselves brings together its subjects in a multi-player video project called “Situation Rooms,” which has been touring the world since 2013 to shed light on the global arms trade through real stories. At a Berlin warehouse, the film's participants meet for the first time in person to share their personal stories and experience those of one another.

They move from room to room, using handheld photo- and film-tools to turn the warehouse into a labyrinth that encompasses factories, battlefields, hospitals, and homes, each touched by violence in a different way. A person might lie on a hospital bed to see the room from the perspective of a wounded Syrian civilian protestor, or sit down to a bowl of borscht in the apartment of a couple who worked in a Russian explosives factory. They can follow in the steps of a German war correspondent, or those of a Doctors Without Borders surgeon in war-torn Sierra Leone.

Documentary subjects in room

A still from Shooting Ourselves, which makes it U.S.premiere at the Margaret Mead Film Festival.

© C. Cynn


At times, the subjects of Shooting Ourselves turn the devices back on themselves to tape heartfelt exchanges about their experiences and the repercussions of war. There is a palpaple sense of individuals trying to bridge gaps of understanding, yet we are also left with the disconnect between the trading in and use of weapons—business as usual for so many—and the reality of victims who die or suffer horrible wounds from gunshots, bombs, even the brutal slash of a machete. 

For more details and showtimes, visit the Margaret Mead Film Festival.