Tribeca Review: ‘KILL TEAM’

Directed by Dan Krauss
Official selection at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Kill Team‘ is a documentary that centers on the Maywand District killings. In the summer of 2010, during the War in Afghanistan, three Afghan civilians were murdered by a group of rogue U.S. Army soldiers who referred to themselves as the “Kill Team”.

The story revolves around a single soldier in particular, Specialist Adam Winfield, one of the only soldiers in the Platoon who seemed had a moral conscience. Adam was dismayed and appalled when members of his Platoon began faking combat situations as a ruse to murder unarmed Afghan civilians. Adam attempted to alert the military to the killings through Internet chats with his father, but his warnings were ignored. When Adam’s fellow soldiers sensed he was going to talk, they threatened to silence him – permanently. It was when the Kill Team decided to carry out yet another murder, this time in Adam’s presence, that Adam was faced with the ultimate moral decision: Take a stand and risk his life, or play along and convince his comrades he was no longer a liability. He chose the latter. Weeks later, Adam would find himself faces charges for premeditated murder. Ironically, it was Private First Class Justin Stoner who was widely-credited as being the whistle-blower in the Kill Team case. Officers had learned from Stoner that Sergeant Gibbs, the noted ringleader of the team, had shown Stoner human fingers he kept as trophies from his victims. This revelation ultimately led investigators to the murders. The military would eventually charge five members of the platoon with the murder of three Afghan civilians in the Kandahar province and collecting body parts as trophies.

The films narrative structure, crafted by Dan Krauss, editor Lawrence Lerew and producer Linda Davis, intertwines two forward-moving timelines – the present-tense trial story and the past tense Afghanistan story – as well as one backward-moving timeline, telling the story of Adam as a young boy. Krauss points out that his primary objective was to steer clear of advocacy – either in favor of Adam Winfield or against the military. Krauss states, “my goal was to not form conclusions or pass judgement on any of the soldiers. The story is about something much bigger than the soldier themselves.

This documentary is a compelling tale of how personal morality intersects with conflict and violence. The convicted soldiers speak with an astonishing degree of candor during their interviews, which raise some important points about the militaries lack of responsibility and the deceptive recruitment techniques used by the government to lure naïve men and woman into joining the military. Sure, in the end justice was served in the case of this Kill Team, but it begs the questions – How many other Kill Teams are still operating among the provinces of Afghanistan?  And what measures is the government taking to assure history doesn’t repeat itself?

Dan Krauss is a Director, Producer and Cinematographer. His first film, ‘The Death of Kevin Carter’, tells the story of a young South African war photographer tormented by his decision to document, rather than intervene in, the acts of brutality he witnessed.  This film garnered him an Academy Award nomination and earned him several festival accolades at the Tribeca Film Festival, The International Documentary Association and the San Francisco International Film Festival.

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