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The Night Doctrine

average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

May 16, 2023

Film Reviews
The Night Doctrine
Directed by:
Mauricio Rodriguez Pons & Almudena Toral
Written by:
Lynzy Billing
Lynzy Billing, Milad Yousufi

Journalist Lynzy Billing’s quest to find the truth around her family’s fate leads to a haunting documentary examining the horrors of night raids in The Night Doctrine, a tactic utilised by the US to eliminate targets in Afghanistan with flaws that led to the death of innocents.


An animated short, the documentary features portrayals of Billing at different stages of her life from her birth in Afghanistan, to losing her mother and sister during a night raid, to working as a journalist investigating the use of the tactic by the US in her home nation during the war on terror. She speaks to families who have lost innocent loved ones during raids, as well as former Afghan army members who perpetrated raids that cost innocent lives to weigh the human cost of a risk-addled and callous methods of war.


There is a haunting quality to The Night Doctrine. Its echoes a similar war documentary Waltz With Bashir, and like its animated counterpart, the creative graphic presentation brilliantly portrays the horrors of war without the use of actual footage. Lynzy’s personal tale and the trauma of those who have had family members fall victim to the raids, and those who live with the regret of carrying them out against innocent civilians make the film as real as it gets despite its presentation in a medium so often pigeon-holed ad the realm of the fantastical. Images such as a fracturing photograph of Lynzy’s family, or the falling ash of a cigarette forming patterns on a map of insurgent groups to represent the paradoxical creation of terrorists as a result of raids designed to stop them are powerful and lasting. Despite occasional lapses in quality, the film’s animation amplifies its human message.


As an investigative piece, there is a sense that the analysis of raids themselves is lacking. Little time is devoted to the actual purposes of the raids or why they were utilised, and only passing mention is given to intelligence failures and their role in raids targeting the wrong people – which feels like a significant factor to omit. There is an implied notion as well that the concept and tactic of night raids originated with the US army, as opposed to being a quite standard method of war and enforcement for centuries. And it’s a missed opportunity that the film does not note or compare the use of domestic night raids by the United States in law enforcement – especially considering high-profile incidents such as the killing of Breonna Taylor – as evidence that the dangers of such tactics extend beyond wartime setting. Such analysis is understandable given that the film is primarily focused on the human stories that have been affected by raids – and it’s fair for Billing’s focus to stay with Afghanistan considering her ties. It would have however benefitted from further evidencing that night raids are a US-specific innovation given the framing in the film.


The featured stories themselves are remarkable and the accounts the filmmakers have been able to secure – particularly from the former Afghan soliders whose identities were anonymized – are eye-opening and emotionally devastating. The resultant emotions are that of empathy and compassion for those whose lives were upturned and destroyed by the war. The film exists therefore as a contemporary and important accounting of a period of history that continues to unfold today. Not all of the questions it raises are answerable – but the human cost it examines is already immeasurable, and its success is in capturing the emotional impact of this in a striking and affecting style.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Short Film, World Cinema, Documentary
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