Director Sonia Kennebeck Talks Public Interest and Public Media’s Role for ‘National Bird’

When filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck began researching drone warfare there was very little information about its impact, much less a discussion of the moral and ethical questions surrounding drone use in combat.

“There was not a lot of information about the drone program from people on the inside,” Kennebeck said. “I really wanted to talk to people directly, (both) people who worked in the drone program and people in the target countries.”

Her new documentary, National Bird, is the first in-depth investigation of the U.S. drone war with unprecedented access to three veteran whistleblowers as well as individuals and families who are victims of their use.

Kennebeck came to Kansas City for KCPT’s sneak peek screening of National Bird on Saturday, April 8, as part of the Indie Lens Pop-Up screening series. After the film, members of a local veterans writing group shared work related to moral injury, and representatives from The Moral Injury Association of America, Veterans for Peace and Amensty International joined Kennebeck for a panel discussion.

In this interview, Kennebeck shares her motivations for making the film, as well as the vital role public media plays for her as an independent filmmaker.

National Bird aired on Independent Lens at 9 p.m. on Monday, May 1, 2017 on KCPT.