Uncovering Modern Warfare: A Conversation with Award Winning Filmmaker Tonje Hessen Schei | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Uncovering Modern Warfare: A Conversation with Award Winning Filmmaker Tonje Hessen Schei


Directed by award-winning female director Tonje Hessen Schei, Drone is a profound and at times terrifying insight in to the world of drone warfare, DRONE offers unprecedented access to those with first-hand experience in one of the most controversial practices of modern day conflict.

DRONE covers diverse and integral ground: from the recruitment of young pilots at gaming conventions and the re-definition of “going to war”, to the moral stance of engineers behind the technology, the world leaders giving the secret “green light” to engage in the biggest targeted killing program in history, and the people willing to stand up against the violations of civil liberties and fight for transparency, accountability and justice. This is just the beginning. In the midst of fast advancement of technology and lagging international legislation the film shows how drones change wars and possibly our future.

Tonje Hessen Schei is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films focus on human rights, the environment and social justice. Tonje directed and produced PLAY AGAIN and INDEPENDENT INTERVENTION, both of which have won several international awards. The films have been screened on all continents in over 100 countries, and are used by schools and universities globally.

The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali had the pleasure of speaking to Tonje for the release of Drone, she tells us how she got involved in the project, her responsibility when bringing this subject to the screen, and how she got started with filmmaking…



How did you first get involved with Drone?

Well I got the idea for Drone in 2010 when I was working on my last film called “ Play Again” that followed a bunch of teenagers and looked at our kids in growing up behind screens and I came across the story of a gamer who dropped out of high school and joined the military, and because of his skill acquired as a gamer he was basically put to be a drone pilot without much training and when he was 19 he was an instructor for other Drone pilots.

And to me, the thought of young kids going from giving points to kill to actually killing real people on the other side of the world, was very frightening. And that’s when I started looking into the issue.


Did you feel a sense of responsibility when bringing the story to the screen?

I think as a documentary film maker I think it’s very important to tell stories that goes beyond the mass media coverage of the issue and to me, it was very shocking to see the silence we had here in Europe around the CIA Drone war where the U.S. was killing thousands of people and civilians outside of the declared war zones with the Drones with no accountability and no transparency.

I think it is a extremely dangerous example that the U.S. is setting and with the CIA Drones especially, and I think it’s very important for us to look at the long term consequence of this warfare, you know if you compare the reactions that Bush and his administrations got around Guantanamo and torture.

When I think about the silence that has been around Obama basically, just assassinating people, no questions asked. On the other side of the world in countries like Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia as well, but mainly Pakistan and there’s no big reactions from European authorities on this. I find that very, very surprising.


Speaking about your career, was there a defining moment for you when you decided to be a film maker?

Well, for me, I’ve always liked to tell stories and when I was 14 I was very driven about the power of showing people pictures that don’t necessarily make it into the media. So when I was 14 I did this “Carpet on Torture” for my Junior High School and I gathered everybody together and showed them pictures that I had collected from my local newspapers of people that have been tortured around the world, and I just couldn’t understand why the newspapers wouldn’t print it, they mainly didn’t care about these people stories.

Because I do think that when people actually hear these stories and see images of what is going on in the world that’s when, number one, we get informed and they actually do something about it. And that’s what I really enjoy with filming.

And of course I love to play with images and sounds and then, I think that it’s a very exciting time to be here and that’s why I selected this unlimited way to tell stories these days, I think are very exciting.



So is the Documentary scape the place that you want to stay in or do you have aspirations to move into feature films?

I think that for me right now reality is just that it is just as exciting as fiction but, you know, you never know.

With Drone we have worked with animation and I love doing that too but so far reality is the most thrilling for me.


When crafting the film, did you find that there were any barriers when trying to get certain things?

Well I think, you know, it was incredibly important to get as many voices from as many different sides to this issue as possible, to give a very rich context to this, to bring the war home.

To get access to the US Airport took a long time and a lot of patience and a little bit of madness just calling the Pentagon for pretty much a year straight, knocking on every single possible door and then when we broke out in 2011 in November and so we trusted Brendon and coercing or showing him that we will want him to tell his whole story this took a lot of time and of course, signing for it and getting the access time down in Pakistan worked out to be very challenging but we worked very closely with people who survived Drone attacks and local photo journalists that covered the stories on the ground there.


Brilliant. And what are you working on next?

Well we have couple of new and very exciting projects coming up, they are just now in early development and it’s too early to really talk about. That’s the best answer I can give you. 



Drone Film Page


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