A film by Karin Jurschick

What do Dietrich Oepke, former GDR model plane champion, Dave Anthony, developer of “Call of Duty” and James Gimzewski, Professor of Nanoarchitecture have in common? They are all players. Concrete or virtual, with quadcopters, futuristic weapons or experiments with an artificial brain, they play with human and technical possibilities. How real are their visions of the future? What do they have in common with developers of unmanned war machines and drone pilots? A cinematic journey.

New perfect machines can spot the movement of every mouse and man in the water, on land and in the air. And they can kill. Autonomously.

The unmanned war robots of the future are modelled after their predatory counterparts in the animal kingdom. A hawk is transformed into the drone of the same name, a dolphin “transforms” into an unmanned naval vehicle, a beetle becomes an unmanned ground vehicle and a butterfly becomes a small, delicate drone: We take the beauty and abilities of animals and transform these qualities into machines, which are given the ability “to learn”. Consequently, thanks to their greater speed and “intelligence”, they could eventually surpass us in many areas.
Who bears responsibility for their actions – and their mistakes? How does the notion of “a soldier’s honour” change when operators thousands of kilometres away sit in front of computer screens and only monitor the missions carried out by the machines? And what about those below, the people in the crosshairs? Does this new technology provide us with reconnaissance information and security, as the industry and governments promise, or are they paving the way for a state with absolute control over its citizens?

Working in combination with satellites, radar, ground stations and land and underwater robots, drones can collect information in every corner of the planet. Particularly in regions such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gaza Strip, which still lag behind the West technologically, the threat from the air must seem almost supernatural, as if a mythological bird of death were circling in the sky – something divine or primeval, not a machine controlled by human hands.

We are dealing with parallel worlds here: the manufacturers’ laboratories, the workshops and the military, the think tanks throughout the world, in which philosophers, historians and scientists reflect on the possibilities and ethics of the new weapons of war; the computer gamers who find it perfectly natural to extend their bodies and abilities without endangering themselves; the pilots who have to learn to come to terms with entirely new requirements: a greater distance between them and the action, along with a new “intimacy” of killing when they secretly observe a human target for weeks; the instructors who teach their students to interpret images that were created at remote locations, so they can subsequently take decisions that may have lethal consequences; and the people who live with, and under, the new war technologies.

The film will explore these issues in Israel, the USA and Germany, and gain new perspectives on this challenging subject with documentary observations, unpublished film material, and captivating protagonists dealing with this matter from different perspectives.

A film about technical developments which will not only change the future of warfare, but also civilian life, our notions of ethics and morality – and even our status as humans in this world. Will machines ultimately become the more decisive decision-makers?

Script: Karin Jurschick
Director: Karin Jurschick
Director of photography: Johann Feindt
Sound: Ursula Köstercke, Rafel Tyblewski
Editor: Marc Schubert
Drone Camera Operator: Ziv Biton, Steffen Hammerich
Production Manager: Monika Mack, Rolf Bremenkamp
Producer: Birgit Schulz
Comissioning editor: Thomas Janssen (ZDF/3sat), Katya Mader (ZDF/3sat), Birgit Keller-Reddemann (WDR)

Distributor: Real Fiction

World Sales: New Docs

A cinema documentary film, 90’/52’
Subsidised by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW and BKM, Deutscher FilmFörderFonds in co-production with ZDF/3sat/WDR

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