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Midway through Blood Trail, photojournalist Robert King begins to describe his latest project in crumbling Chechnya. “I’m getting ready to take pictures of a beautiful Russian woman,” he says “and she is starting to eat 15 bananas in 20 minutes.” King is covering his second war—not quite a veteran, but no longer a pathetic newcomer, having his life-threatening mistakes pointed out by other journalists. Nearly two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, he’s making a film about fresh fruit arriving from the West. “I felt that I could kill two birds with one stone,” he says, “please my sexual frustration, and please the American produce companies that supply these bananas to Grozny.” Blood Trail follows King’s career through 15 years and three wars beginning with Bosnia, where he is broke, has trouble selling his photos, and can’t even afford to stay with most of the international journalists. In Chechnya, he is more confident and successful, but still personally unappeased. By the end of the movie, he’s come out more stable than you’d ever expect, though by no means calm or settled. The joy of Blood Trail—which becomes ever more compelling in each scene—is watching King slowly climb out of his awkwardness and hone his skill. He starts off eager for a Pulitzer before he even learns how to take frontline shots. He’s got substance-abuse problems. But, most significant, he’s completely insatiable, so he thrives on the drama of war, the ridiculousness of his role there, and the futility of it all.
At 8:15 p.m. at Round House Theatre; also on Saturday, June 20 at 7:15 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre.