Journalism is a dangerous job. By some accounts it is the most dangerous job in the world.
When the news to be covered is war or political upheaval, the job is to get as close to the center of danger as possible, wielding a notebook (or, more recently, a laptop) in place of a gun. When it is crime or corruption, the danger comes not from stray bullets, but from the perpetrators themselves, who make reporters their targets.
The situation is even more perilous for photojournalists. These folks get their cameras as close to the fires and floods, the battles and the bombs, as they dare, to freeze a moment in time or to show the rest of us the faces of the combatants and the victims — all without flinching. So the question is, who in their right mind would choose to do this for a living, and why?
In just over an hour-and-a-half, Israeli writer-director Solo Avital provides one answer to that question: Tel Aviv-based freelance photographer and World Photo Press Award winner Ziv Koren.
In …More Than 1000 Words, Avital blends footage of Koren at work and home with some of the startling and moving stills that have made him a household name among the top photo editors in the world.
The filmmaker weaves his soundtrack from interviews with Koren himself, his wife, Israeli actor and model Galit Gutman, and his agent, among others. Their voices are punctuated by the sounds of his life — gunfire and ambulance sirens, to be sure, but also conversations with his daughter and the quiet roar of the motorbike on which he drives her to kindergarten.
One of the often unspoken occupational hazards of journalism is that it so often robs its devotees of the sense of moral certitude with which most people defend their beliefs. It is too hard, after photographing the face of a 12-year-old painted in the red, white and green of the Palestinian flag or that of the 20-year-old IDF soldier facing down mortars and artillery shells, to forget their names or their individual humanity.
It is hard to demonize the leader of Hamas or the prime minister of Israel after looking into their eyes with a portrait lens. And, as Koren explains at length, it is hard, even a decade later, to shake off the horrific memories of the aftermath of a terrorist bus bombing whose images won international awards and acclaim.
What makes Koren’s work so vividly compelling is its humanity; what makes 1000 Words a truly great documentary is his.