6/22/23: Virtual Talks with Video Activists: “I Wanted to Be a Man With a Gun”

Preview screening of new WWII documentary, with filmmaker William Farley and scholar Bruce Jenkins.

A full replay of the June 22 event.

About I Wanted To Be a Man With a Gun: Three American Soldiers in WWII

“Thou shalt not kill” is one of the most basic commandments of civilized society. What happens to people who were told: “It is now your duty to kill”? This longing to understand how we behave under extreme circumstances like war still haunts me, and has brought me to the making of I Wanted To Be A Man With A Gun.

–Director William Farley

I Wanted To Be A Man With A Gun is a feature length film constructed from the stories of three WWII veterans fighting on the European front. As they recount their experiences through the prism of their 90-year old selves, they reveal the shocking reality of combat that still weighs heavy in their lives. 

Each soldier represents a unique and sometimes disturbing perspective in their experience of war – and how they respond to the challenges of surviving combat. Harold Kozloff, a brazen Jewish soldier in the infantry, hated the Germans and killed them with impunity. On the surface, Harold killed without conscience, yet the brutality of WWII touched his life forever. 

Leo Litwak was a reluctant Jewish soldier who became a medic in the infantry. While he hated Nazism, he saw the German soldiers as victims of circumstance. Following the orders of the Geneva Convention he treated their wounds with the same consideration he practiced while working on American G.I.’s, but not without consequence.

Paul Mico, a Catholic Squad Sergeant in the 29th infantry, reluctantly takes enemy lives, and gives the film historical context from the Normandy invasion to the German surrender. His soft-spoken musings soon become shocking as he reveals how his squad killed unarmed prisoners. After the massacre at Malmedy, Belgium, where the Germans machine-gunned 84 American prisoners, Sergeant Mico and his men began a killing spree – the impact of which indelibly changed his life.

The soldiers do not censor themselves in telling their stories, including how they reacted to the Anti-Semitism of their fellow G.I.’s; their rage unleashed against the Germans directly involved in the persecution of their religious brethren; and the horrific consequences of the war to their lives. This powerful and poetic film employs a haunting original score integrated with rare archival footage, ultimately revealing that even in a justifiable war no soldier escapes the trauma of the requirement to kill or be killed.


I Wanted To Be A Man with a Gun is a searing reminiscence of three “average” GI’s during WWII that will put the lie to the quaint notion that there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” Watching these decent fellows remember killing prisoners, and witnessing atrocities…should serve as a caution, that each of us, if we fail to monitor and control our darkest impulse, can become the monster we think we are hunting.  

–Peter Coyote, actor, writer, Zen Buddhist priest

Trailer for I Wanted to Be a Man With a Gun

Learn more about the film at https://www.manwithagunfilm.com/

About William Farley

I was in the M.F.A. program at California College of the Arts as a Sculpture major, and I took an elective class on the History of Cinema. At the end of the semester the professor offered us a choice, either write a paper about the films he had shown or make a film. I knew nothing about making a film, but I was innocent and ambitious and decided to give it a try. The film was accepted at a local film festival, and standing in the back of the theater watching it play, feeling the enthusiasm from the audience, swept me away. For the next half century, I made experimental films, documentaries, and feature-length narrative movies. I took on the liberties of being an artist and used film as the medium to investigate the world. I am inspired by a wide variety of subject matter – whatever captures my imagination and fuels my sense of story. I have lived a life of abandon. And I have been fortunate enough to have my films shown nationally and internationally. The list includes The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Sundance Film Festival, New York Film Festival and many more. My work has received awards at the Mannheim International Film Festival, the Chicago Film Festival, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival among others. My films have also been broadcast on public television in the U.S. and abroad, reaching thousands of viewers. I am blessed to be able to do this work.

About Bruce Jenkins

Bruce Jenkins is a Professor of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He gained an interest in film while rewinding, cleaning, and strapping film into shipping cases at the documentary distribution company, Icarus Films. He began his curatorial career in the 1970s with small-scale shows at Media Study Buffalo and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. In 2021, Jenkins published the second volume of the Andy Warhol Film Catalogue Raisonné for the Whitney Museum and Yale University Press. His research focused on the film and video works produced by Warhol from 1963 to 1965. This took the form of essays examining Warhol’s influences, methodologies, source material, technical innovations, and engagement with the subjects that he filmed.

In addition to SAIC, Jenkins has taught at Harvard University, University of Cincinnati, Macalester College, University of Minnesota, and SUNY at Buffalo. He has served as the Stanley Cavell Curator at the Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, MA; Director of Film/Video at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Film Programmer at Media Study, Buffalo, NY. His publications include Gordon Matta-Clark: Conical Intersect (2011), On the Camera Arts and Consecutive Matters: The Writings of Hollis Frampton (2009), and 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II (1999). He has also authored articles for publications such as Artforum, Millennium Film Journal, and October.

This event is free to attend. Media Burn is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and we depend on donations to continue our work. Please consider making a donation along with your ticket signup, or at https://mediaburn.org/donate, or by texting MEDIABURN to 44321



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