National Bird ****

Heather, Daniel and Lisa are former members of the U.S. Army. Their duties included detailed and careful analyzation of photographs taken by drones flying over foreign countries. On hand of these details, they would recommend whether an air attack would be successful without danger to civilians. Naturally, such photographs could not present a complete picture of any situation over countries where war has not even been declared. These three former military representatives have come forward in real whistleblower manner and discussed the danger of drones with director Kennebeck. Heather does not know the number of deaths for which she is personally responsible. Lisa said that with drones, borders are irrelevant. Kennebeck meets a family of 23 in Afghanistan who was attacked while innocently driving along. Several people were killed and some will be physically handicapped forever. We see real film material over and over again as drone-led bombs drop and the people run in all directions far below. The global news agency, Democracy Now, reports on this impossible situation to 700 different media, including TIDE (radio/TV which can be received in Hamburg).

This played at the 2016 Berlinale film festival and the 2016 Filmfest Hamburg, as well as at least 16 other festivals  Director Kennebeck came back to her roots to present her film at the Hamburg film festival. She was born in Malaysia, grew up in Hamburg-Billstedt, and studied in Washington D.C. This 35-year-old, very attractive director has had a successful career as an investigative journalist for German television, especially ARD/Panorama, as well as CNN. This is her first full-length film, funded in part by the Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein. She divides her time between the U.S. and Hamburg. The Hamburg Festival catalog says it best: “National Bird is a brilliantly researched exposure of the illusion of a “clean” war.” (Becky Tan)


  • USA 2016
  • Opening January 12, 2016
  • Directed by Sonia Kennebeck
  • Writing credits: Sonia Kennebeck
  • Principal actors: documentary