Overview: Michael Christopher Brown has been to Libya five times during the conflicts that brought down Gaddafi’s rule. The situation was chaotic then and remains so today. After the regime ended the country was not going to simply wake up the next day and be a democratic society. Brown is in the present-day chaos and gives HBO viewers an eyewitness account of the tense locale, his work there and the losses he has endured as a WITNESS: LIBYA.
Expectations: Each of the hot-spots around the world has got to offer a totally different dynamic than the next. So too should each episode of this series. The experiences witnessed by Michael Christopher Brown in Libya will be different from the rest. Each episode cannot tell the same story. The press release for this installment mentions that Brown relives the losses that he has experienced while documenting the strife of this country. Therefore, I expect in the next 57 minutes to relive those traumas with him and gain an understanding why he does what he does.
Gut Reaction: “Welcome to Libya, the craziest country on Earth” is a direct quote from Brown in this piece and he isn’t kidding. People shot guns in the air constantly; they riddle empty buildings with bullets and mortars; they leave whole towns, including Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, as bombed out shells; they leave stockpiles of munitions lying in the desert and they run in crazed abandon. One psychiatrist was filmed saying, in effect, that Libya is a nation of people that distrust each other to the extreme; that paranoia reigns in the dictator’s aftermath.
All of that is clearly evident in the imagery and words of Michael Christopher Brown. It is quite evident as he constantly switches back and forth from video camera to still camera capturing images of everything from dead dogs to burned out cars; from protesters to soldiers; from rage to loss. It wasn’t until forty-some minutes into the piece that he talked of his own loss. A mortar rained down and took out two of his colleagues and injured him; only he survived. He talks briefly of the loss, goes back to the scene of the crime and even shows triage footage afterwards and then it is back to talking of the people of Libya and their turmoil. He seems not to miss a beat as he is drawn back to his sense of purpose in this war-torn place.
In Conclusion: Despite his physical harm and strife he remains there not really able to easily explain the compelling forces keeping him there. His presence, however, makes for a gripping story and one that was intriguingly conveyed here. Witness WITNESS: LIBYA for yourself and feel free to comment.