When the invasion of Iraq ended no one knew what was to come. In the midst of the celebrations, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the most vicious of Al Qaeda leaders, laid out his plan for the Islamic State – to transform the invasion into one of the most brutal conflicts our time... and to do it all on camera.


Filmmakers: Bill Guttentag & Michael Ware
Year: 2015
Runtime: 77 mins
Country: Australia
Format: HD


Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary- Sydney Film Festival 2015


Sydney Film Festival 2015

Melbourne International Film Festival 2015

Telluride Film Festival 2015

IDFA 2015




Theatrical feature documentary Only the Dead is the story of what happens when one ordinary man, an Australian journalist transplanted into the Middle East by the reverberations of 9/11, butts into history. It is a journey that courses through the deepest recesses of the Iraq war, revealing a darkness lurking in his own heart. A darkness that he never knew was there. The invasion of Iraq has ended, and the Americans are celebrating victory. The year is 2003. The international press corps revel in the Baghdad “Summer of Love”, there is barely a spare hotel room in the entire city.

Reporters of all nationalities scramble for stories; of the abuses of Saddam’s fallen regime; of WMD’s, of reconstruction, of liberation. There are pool parties, and restaurant outings, and dinner-­‐party circuits. Occasionally, Coalition forces are attacked, but always elsewhere, somewhere in the background. All the while however, alone and in secret one man, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the most vicious al Qaeda leader the world has ever seen, is planning the real war. Step-­‐ by-­‐step he lays out his plan in a letter to Osama bin Laden: the suicide truck bombings; the bloody horrors of the civil war; the televised beheadings.

He carries out his grand design to perfection, bringing the country to its knees, almost singlehandedly transforming the invasion into one of the most brutal conflicts our time and a catastrophe for the planet’s only superpower...and he does it all on camera. And then, when he’s finally ready to reveal himself, to “go public” as he foretold bin Laden, what does Zarqawi do with the film that will shock the world, that will change the war forever? He gives it to Michael Ware. Of all people. A hard-­‐drinking, hard-­‐running, maverick Australian reporting for American news outlets. The tape Zarqawi gives him, having handpicked Ware by name, sets our correspondent off on an epic voyage as he seeks answers. As he seeks what he thinks will be the Truth.


★★★★ - The Guardian

'Gripping' - The Hollywood Reporter


Michael Ware is the President/CEO of Penance Films and TV, an independent documentary film company based in Brisbane, Australia. Prior to forming Penance, Michael was Chief Primetime Foreign Correspondent for CNN, reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Republic of Georgia, and Mexico.


Bill Guttentag is a double Oscar-­‐winning feature film and documentary writer-­‐producer-­‐ director. He wrote and directed Knife Fight (IFC) starring Rob Lowe, Julie Bowen, Carrie-­‐Ann Moss, and Jamie Chung, which premiered at the Tribeca Film festival, and was released in 2013. He also wrote and directed LIVE!, starring Eva Mendes and Andre Braugher, which was produced by Mosaic Media Group and distributed domestically by The Weinstein Company, and its international distribution included Lionsgate (2008).



Director: Bill Guttentag and Michael Ware

Writer: Michael Ware

Producers: Patrick McDonald and Michael Ware

Executive Producer: Justine A. Rosenthal

Associate Producer: Andrew Macdonald

Editor: Jane Moran

Music: Michael Yezerski