Penance Films and Wolfhound Pictures




Walkley Documentary Award

Only the Dead is Australian correspondent Michael Ware’s documentary retrospective of seven years, beginning with the “Coalition of the Willing’s” invasion of Iraq in 2003. It records the birth of the Islamic State in 2003, reveals a US war crime committed by soldiers in 2007, and takes you to the front lines of the conflict’s greatest battles. The film also crosses over to the other side, to insurgent training camps and attacks against US forces. Ware’s work as a frontline reporter resulted in his extraordinary access to the creator of IS, Abu Mousab al Zarqawi, and IS’s videoed atrocities of suicide bombings in Baghdad and the first of its ritualised beheadings.

Michael Ware heads Penance Films and TV, an independent documentary company in Brisbane. Prior to forming Penance, he was chief prime-time foreign correspondent for CNN, which he joined in 2006 after five years with TIME Magazine. He worked for The Courier-Mail until 2000.

Justine Rosenthal served as editorial director of the Newsweek/Daily Beast Company and was executive editor of the print magazine.

Jane Moran won widespread credit for her edit of the 2008 documentary Salute, about the role played by an Australian athlete in the Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Patrick McDonald formerly worked for the Irish Film Board, helping finance more than 150 film, television and documentary projects. He set up Wolfhound Pictures in July 2011.

Bill Guttentag is a double Oscar-winning dramatic and documentary film writer-producer-director. His most recent film, Only the Dead, will air on HBO in March 2016.

Judges’ comments:

“Only the Dead is exceptional because it draws from Michael Ware’s 300 hours of (mostly handheld) battlefront footage to structure an observational timeline including his covert encounter with Zarqawi’s network. Ware faced death constantly through what seemed like irrational exposure without respite over seven years. He survived, but at the cost of traumatic stress.

Regardless, he is determined to share his handycam reality with confronting honesty. Never before has video journalism taken us to the heart of violence and atrocity perpetrated by a monster and the invader who created it. Our Orwellian never-ending “war on terror” is the result. Only the Dead confronts us with our misjudgement and is the most powerful document as a result.”