McCullin (2012) *****

December 18th, 2012
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director:    David Morris, Jacqui Morris
Producer:  Jacqui Morris
Cast:          Don McCullin

93mins       Documentary

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As a young man he delighted in the excitement of action and covered most of the world’s conflicts from the Congo, Lebanon, Biafra, Vietnam (fifteen times) and Northern Ireland. His dedication and sensitivity to the subjects he photographed made him a household name by the Seventies.

Quite aside from the extraordinary catalogue of photographs that we are here privy to, it’s the unfolding of one man’s very personal journey as much as the stories behind the pictures that makes this film so moving. Some of the photos are almost impossible to look at such is their power.  And it’s Don McCullin’s facing of himself through his subject matter, mostly of men, women and children dying in the most desperate of circumstances, that is so captivating.

He attempts to explain why he documented what he filmed and the times and reasons that he did not: that he felt that he was doing a service to humanity by telling stories that could only be told by photographing them and sending them back to the magazine. He fervently hoped they would make maximum impact after Sunday breakfast back home in Blighty. But he was never comfortable, always questioning both his own ethic and also what was suitable and what was not.

There are also some simply joyous photographs of England in the Fifties, a lost age captured and preserved here in a raw and real way. McCullin always endeavoured to empathise with his subjects; this was the source of his initial breakout success and he adhered to it for the rest of his professional career, literally going into war zones with soldiers and mercenaries alike to get the photo verité rather than dabbling at the edges. This methodology cost him dear.

David and Jacqui Morris have triumphed with this documentary, sensibly retaining an almost invisible profile, content just to let the story tell itself. Yesterday’s news this definitely ain’t. You cannot fail to be moved. AT

 

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