Telling the Human Stories From Both Sides of the Drones

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After a year of calling the Pentagon and the U.S. Air Force and getting nothing, all that changed when former drone pilot Brandon Bryent agreed to share his story to Tonje Hessen Schei and her documentary team. Her film Drones was shown Wednesday night at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference.

“As soon as Brandon agreed to be a part of the film, the U.S. Air Force opened their official door and gave us their sort of a spokesperson, so we ended up with three drone pilots in the film,” director Schei says with a smile on her face. She points out that it was important to tell the human stories from both sides of the drones.

One of the challenges the documentary team faced was getting the film released in the United States as the U.S. broadcaster was scared to touch this issue and this film.

“It’s difficult for political documentaries to make it in the States, so it took a while to find the right partners over there and to find the right ways. But we have a very strong team there now and have some exciting news that’s coming up. The documentary has its theatrical release in New York on November 20.”

Drones is a useful opportunity for journalists who are working with human rights and issues. The ability that drones have is to surveil and make sure that war is fought and following the laws and that there are no human rights abuses happening during war,” Schei points out.

“I think as activists there are all these ways that we have to figure out, and also use this technology to protect human rights, and all these issues that we are fighting for with our film and our journalism. I think this is a tool that can be very useful, and personally I’m very excited to use it in my work,” the Norwegian director explains.

The film is being distributed in over twenty countries, and The Guardian made a ten-minute version of the film which has reached more than 100 million people.


David Gustavsen Tvetene and Harald Stolt-Nielsen are journalism students at the University College of Volda who are on special assignment covering #gijc15.  

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