Breaker Morant

Breaker Morant (1980; directed by Bruce Beresford): In 1902, several Australian soldiers in the British army’s struggle in the second Anglo-Boer War were court-martialed for murdering a civilian and captured enemy combatants. It was one of the first trials for war crimes in British history, complicated by the fact that the Australians were often used by the British as cannon fodder in their own wars. The film opens up a number of moral questions, particularly about personal and collective responsibility under extreme circumstances, without offering any easy answers. What degree of responsibility should be assigned to people who act wrongly under enormous pressure? What responsibility do those who command others for atrocities committed during war? Does discrimination mitigate responsibility for one’s actions? These difficult questions find a stage for reflection in Beresford’s cinematic fictionalization of this single incident at the turn of the twentieth century. [recommended by Todd May, Clemson University]

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