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Documentary Film Review: An Unlikely Weapon

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Acclaimed film chronicles the life and career

of Poster art work © Eddie Adams/Morgan Cooper Productionsphotojournalist Eddie Adams

by Diane Berkenfeld

For those who are enamored of everything photography, check out the acclaimed documentary film—An Unlikely Weapon—The Eddie Adams Story. The documentary film is directed and produced by Susan Morgan Cooper, with cinematography and editing by Isaac Hagy. Cindy Lou Adkins, Eddie Adams’ sister-in-law co-produced the documentary. The film documents Eddie Adams’ life and how one photograph—some say the one photograph that ended the Vietnam war—changed his life forever.

You may have been too young to remember the news footage of the Vietnam war, but you’ve likely seen Adams’ photo, taken in 1968 of Saigon Police Chief General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a Vietcong Guerilla at point blank range. Along with fame, and a Pulitzer Prize, that image haunted Eddie Adams for the rest of his life. “Two lives were destroyed that day, the victim’s and the General,” Adams often said. Others would say three lives were destroyed.


Saigon execution © Eddie Adams/AP Photo

Saigon execution © Eddie Adams/AP Photo

Adams’ career spanned 13 wars, as well as forays into commercial and beauty photography because he’d gotten to the point in his life where he felt he had to find a different photographic avenue to pursue. Adams found photographing celebrities was much easier on his psyche. His images graced the covers of Time, Life, Parade Magazine, and even Penthouse. He is also known for having captured the images of six presidents and every major film star of the last 50 years. An Unlikely Weapon tells the story, not only of Adams’ famous image, but of the photographer—how he worked, why he did what he did—as raw and crass as the man himself was. Adams was a perfectionist, and throughout the documentary, he explains in his own words why he felt he never attained it. But don’t let his manner of speaking fool you—Adams was a great photographer, well admired and respected for what he did during his lifetime, more so than he probably ever thought of himself. The film gives the viewer a unique view into the life and career of a fascinating photographer. An Unlikely Weapon is a wonderful film that should not be missed.

The viewer is brought back to the Vietnam war by Adams’ reminiscing as well as storytelling by journalists including Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Morely Safer, and fellow photographers: Douglas Kirkland, Nick Ut, Jay Maisel, Bill Eppridge, Gordon Parks, and Former President Bill Clinton, actor Alec Baldwin, General Nygoc Loan, and others. The film is narrated by Kiefer Sutherland.

The documentary has won numerous accolades and awards from film festivals around the world.

In addition to the many images he created, Eddie Adams also left the photographic world Barnstorm, the Eddie Adams Workshop, (www.eddieadamsworkshop.com) a tuition-free photography experience that spans four days. Barnstorm gathers top photography professionals and 100 carefully selected students each fall for an amazing learning experience. 

The film is being screened in select theatres around the country. Check out the website at www.anunlikelyweapon.com for locations/dates or more information.



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