NEVER LOOK AWAY (2024)
Runtime: 85 minutes.
Release Date: TBD [Festival Run]
Studio: Ingenious Media.
[Seen at Sundance Film Festival 2024]
"Swashbuckling CNN combat camerawoman, Margaret Moth, risks it all to put the viewer inside the conflict. When a fateful injury gets in the way of her appetite for danger and adrenaline, Moth must find the strength to carry on."
OUR DOCUMENTARY REVIEW:
Whether we realize it or not, there’s a difference between reporting the news and gathering it. Where reporting requires a journalist to be well-versed in a story and to have the confidence to go in front of a camera and relay the facts, gathering requires a majority of the time, research and risk. While both jobs are equally as important, it’s often the ones who do the latter that get the least credit. There’s no better proof of this than Margaret Moth, a camerawoman whose indelible story has been hidden from headlines for decades…until now.
Never Look Away isn’t just the mantra of most camera operators. It’s the title of Lucy Lawless’ debut documentary. The film tells the true story of Moth, who was the first female camera operator to be employed by state television in New Zealand. That bit of trivia is just the tip of the iceberg though. The film charts both Moth’s personal life and rise as a powerhouse camera person across the world. That is, until one day tragedy strikes and she is forced to see life through a totally different lens.
You would never know that this is Lawless' first film. That’s because of the care and confidence with which she handles Moth’s story. Although the actress-turned-director is most known for her iconic role as Xena: Warrior Princess, she has no problem exerting her influence to shed light on how much of a real-life warrior Moth was.
The film starts off with interviews with Moth’s closest lovers, friends, and colleagues. Through a series of seemingly random anecdotes, we are effectively painted a colorful portrait of how cool - and cold - Moth was. As time goes on, we start to realize that the stories weren’t all that random. Moth was just spontaneous. That spontaneity and thirst for adventure ultimately leads her to a life as a news camerawoman.
In her time as a camera operator, she both turns heads and impresses. Not only is she the only woman in some news circles, but she’s willing to put her life on the line more than any man cares to admit. As we come to find out, there are several instances where Moth purposely inserts herself into dangerous situations to get the best possible shot. But she’s not doing it because she loves the rush, or even to please her superiors. Rather, she knows that she’s the only conduit between the world and the truth.
The same way that Moth was unabashedly herself, she believed the world deserved to be seen as itself - unfiltered. Moth covers several major conflicts, including the Gulf War and the Bosnian War, during her tenure as a camerawoman, and mostly for CNN. But all war has its casualties. And even her good intentions can’t protect her from inevitable danger.
One day, while traveling to an assignment, a caravan that Moth is traveling with is shot at. The bullet pierces the glasses and shatters her face. She doesn’t die, but she is never the same again. From this point on, the film’s title takes on a new meaning. She goes from being in control of the spectacle to being a spectacle. A permanent reminder of war herself, she refuses to give up. It’s only then that we really see the true beauty of Moth’s journey for ourselves.
Now, Never Look Back isn’t perfect. Sometimes Lawless and her subjects veer off into discussing aspects of Moth’s life that aren’t all that important. For example, there’s one old lover featured in the film who talks too much about himself. It doesn’t feel like we spend enough time on the second part of Moth’s life, after the shooting, either. Still, there’s no denying how perfectly it introduces the world to a true unsung hero in the world of journalism. One whose lust for living on the edge served a deeper purpose. And one whose search for the truth ended up being a reminder of life’s greatest truth: what we lend our focus to is all that matters.