Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture


Aerial view of family compound in Afghanistan.
Courtesy of Torsten Lapp
Aerial view of family compound in Afghanistan.

Airs Monday, May 1, 2017 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Investigate the U.S. drone war with two women and a former NSA analyst who become whistleblowers.

"National Bird" follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war.

Exploring the complexities of drone warfare from a human perspective, the film gives rare insight into the American military drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors.

Directed by Sonia Kennebeck, and executive produced by Errol Morris and Wim Wenders, "National Bird" premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS Monday, May 1, 2017 on PBS.

National Bird - Trailer

"National Bird follows whistleblowers who

At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans — Heather, Daniel, and Lisa. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, each decides to speak out publicly, regardless of the consequences.

Drone whistleblower Lisa.
Courtesy of Torsten Lapp
Drone whistleblower Lisa.

Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of them to Afghanistan, where she learns about a tragic incident involving drone warfare. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption.

"National Bird" explores the difficult circumstances faced by military personnel involved with combat drones, the use of which has transformed modern warfare. Missions are highly classified, and there are no official counts of military or civilian casualties.

"National Bird - "You Said it Was Okay to Kill Them" - Clip"

"In this excerpt from the Independent Lens film National Bird

The need for operators and intelligence analysts is increasing, yet their experiences and perspectives have been largely neglected because of their distance from the battlefield.

While it may be true that these veterans don’t sustain battlefield injuries, their psychological wounds can be substantial. Pilots and analysts observe air strikes live and in detail, including the aftermath, when survivors pick up human remains for burial.

Yet due to the secrecy of their positions, they are prohibited from discussing details of their experiences with anyone — even their psychiatrists. For some veterans these constraints are too much to handle.

National Bird - NSA Analyst Turned Activist - Clip

"In this excerpt from the Independent Lens film National Bird

The film weaves together the stories of two groups separated by thousands of miles: those involved in drone warfare, and survivors and family members of those impacted by lethal drones.

The film’s haunting images bring a faraway issue close to home.


Full episodes are available to view on demand for a limited time after broadcast. Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming available only to KPBS members ($60 + yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn more about this memeber benefit now.


INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. #IndieLensPBS. #NationalBirdPBS

The "National Bird" film is on Facebook, and you can follow @NationalBirdDoc on Twitter.


Director/producer is Sonia Kennebeck. Producer is Ines Hofmann Kanna. Executive Producers are Wim Wenders, Errol Morris, Lois Vossen and Sally Jo Fifer. Director of Photography is Torsten Lapp. Editor is Maxine Goedicke. Composer is Insa Rudolph. Title song “National Bird” Sole and DJ Pain 1.