HBO’s WITNESS Series: DVD Review

By Jef Dinsmore on May 7, 2013 to Documentaries


WITNESS,  a searing and groundbreaking 4-part HBO Documentary Films® series, offers “an immersive experience” (The Denver Post) into present-day conflict zones in Mexico, Libya, South Sudan and Brazil, as shown through the lenWitness_DVDs of three war photographers. Carrying viewers to the heart of the human drama in war-torn areas, the film explores what compels our current generation of photojournalists to get closer to battle when everyone else seeks cover. The series is Executive produced by Michael Mann and acclaimed commercial and documentary director David Frankham.

In some areas of the world, turmoil is often so volatile that major news organizations have left, or dare not go in at all. Only a handful of photojournalists remain, armed with just their cameras, to document the atrocities and attempt to make sense of the complicated issues that perpetuate in these locations. WITNESS follows three young combat photographers as they do just that. And now those daring reports are out on DVD.


The street date for the DVD release is today, 05.07.13 at a suggested retail price of $19.98. If you are not familiar with this 4-part series but like the danger and heroics of combat journalism than this DVD might be of interest. HBOWatch actually reviewed WITNESS as each episode aired:

  •  On 11.05.12 we gave this Overview.
  •  On 11.09.12 we reviewed Eros Hoagland’s piece from  Juarez, Mexico, where he explored the gang-and-drug related violence there.
  • On 11.14.12 we reviewed Michael Christopher Brown’s piece from Libya where he chronicled the escalating ethnic tensions in the wake of Gaddafi’s ouster.
  •  On 11.28.13 we reviewed Véronique de Viguerie’s piece from the South Sudan, with the ‘Arrow Boys” and their fight with General Kony and in that same post we looked at the episode from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Eros Hoagland.Witness_Rio

As for the DVD itself it is bare bones and that is okay by me. There are no Extras and they are not needed. What would you add? Well, maybe biographies of the journalists would be nice. There does not, however, need to be any historical background on the regions visited as the episodes cover all you need to know adequately and as for Deleted footage to show goes, there isn’t time for wasted footage in these places. They are combat journalists – they get in, keep their heads down and they get out. We are lucky to get what footage we do see and in a coherent manner. That is not to say that there is not wasted footage, of course.

At any rate, for repeat viewers or those interested in the subject matter for the first time look for –



 “Powerful…A valuable addition to studies of war journalism.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Exhilarating” – Entertainment Weekly


A World in Conflict Through A Lens

A 4-part Documentary Series from Award-Winning Filmmaker Michael Mann

 May 7, 2013 from HBO Home Entertainment

 Find it at the HBO Shop or on Amazon.

  • Jef Dinsmore

    Yes, the world is burning! And though we feel we can do nothing we can at least stay informed. Thanks to WITNESS, which I hope sees another season, and VICE we can do just that.
    I don’t think this type of programming will go away now thanks to HBO.

  • Thanks for reviewing all of these, Jef. I liked the series and I think it was underserved by HBO. Just look at VICE. It’s getting a ton of attention while these docs were more in depth covering similar issues, ya know? Glad HBO is taking on this stuff though because no one else is. The normal news channels want to argue about gun laws and Senate committing processes. Meanwhile.. the world is burning.

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