After the screening of E-Team at the Sydney Film Festival, one of the directors Ross Kauffman, and the leading lady Anna took to the stage. Immediately the audience rose to their feet signifying the powerful nature of this documentary.
The opening scene plants the audience right inside a Syrian home with Anna and Ole, a married couple from The E-team asking questions of some anxious villagers about a recent military airstrike, the sounds of aeroplanes still overhead.
The film follows Anna and Ole into various situations such as Russian press-conferences and the devastated grounds of recently bombed Syria, but it also has a presence in their homes watching them pack their bags while Anna’s 12 year old son asks for “shrapnel” as a present from Syria. Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman have incredibly gained access into some of the most important and intimate moments for the members of the E-team, mirroring the surreal nature of the tragic events being documented.
Other members of the E-team include Peter Bouckaert, who spent an extensive amount of time in Libya talking to Gadaffi’s casualties and identifying some of the worlds most dangerous and sort after weapons. Fred Abrahams feels like the paternal leader of the group whose work in Libya led to the discovery of mass military killings. Footage of him testifying against the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, regarding war crimes and genocide also shows the impact their work has on an international level.
When the camera crew cross the Syrian border with Anna and Ole guerrilla style, it is evident early on that this kind of work, the kind that sorts out international human rights, is also the kind of work most individuals could never do.
The directors expertly fuse together the E-team’s work with their personal lives, and it never comes off as preachy or charitable, just real. Real people risking their lives to “fuck with bad people” Bourchaert tells the audience almost cheerfully. The kinds of people who do such unique work are inevitably characters themselves, and drive the documentary along with surprising ease given the circumstances. At the end of the film we learn that one of the cameramen who shot the documentary disappeared on another project in Syria, a sad reminder of the sacrifices this work entails.
E-team not only sheds light on the important work of this Human Rights Watch team, on the practical nature of this kind of work, but also sheds light into those dark places of the world that desperately need it.
This post was originally published in June at Aphra mag.