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Florida Film Festival: The Kill Team

Specialist Adam Winfield (with his parents), the subject of The Kill Team.
Specialist Adam Winfield (with his parents), the subject of The Kill Team.www.floridafilmfestival.com

The Kill Team

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The Kill Team is a documentary that aims to arouse anger in the audience, and it certainly does that. It explores the darker crevices of human nature and the inhumanity of a small group of soldiers that committed murder under the guise of combat. It is not an easy film to watch, but it is an important story to tell and a movie that deserves to be seen.

Specialist Adam Winfield joined the army when he was only 17. Deployed to Afghanistan as an infantryman, Winfield soon discovered that members of his platoon had formed a "kill team"; led by Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, several of the soldiers began murdering civilians and covering up the killings to look like legitimate engagements. Himself threatened with murder by Gibbs if he talked about the kill team, Winfield reached out to his father, who tried to alert authorities stateside to no avail. Toward the end of his tour Winfield was finally able to expose the murders, but only after he had been a reluctant participant in one. Thinking he would be protected on his return, Winfield was instead charged with first degree murder along with Gibbs and two other men from his platoon.

The film covers the trial from Winfield's perspective, supplementing the preparation for the court martial with interviews with Winfield's family as well as interviews with several of the other soldiers involved. Their matter of fact discussion of the murders is chilling. One soldier, a private who was not charged, speaks about the killings with such nonchalance that it becomes obvious that there are people who were already murderers in their hearts, and that the war just gave them an outlet for their bloodlust. Staff Sergeant Gibbs is portrayed as the real villain, who used his position of authority to influence and cajole the younger soldiers into murder.

The doc, while not particularly cinematic is effective because the testimony of Winfield, the other soldiers, and Winfield's family is so compelling. Director Dan Krauss establishes without a doubt that justice has not been served, and the real culprit is a military culture that allowed three innocent Afghan men to be murdered in cold blood.

For screening info, visit the Florida Film Festival website. For my other reviews from the fest, click here.