Screened as part of NZIFF 2002

First Kill 2001

Directed by Coco Schrijber

73 minutes 35mm



Coco Schrijber
Sander Snoep


Sander Snoep


Sander Snoep
Boris Gerrets


Amsterdam Documentary 2001; Rotterdam 2002


Coco Schrijber’s challenging documentary, First Kill, confronts the guilty pleasures of warfare, such as filmgoers’ pleasure at the voluptuousness of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now – or American tourists excitedly exploring VC tunnels in Vietnam today and describing the experience as if it were a Disneyland themepark. Closer to the action, as it were, Schrijber interviews former war correspondent and screenwriter of Full Metal Jacket, Michael Herr on the paradoxical allure of warfare. She also interviews several Vietnam veterans, most of whom describe their wartime experiences with nostalgia. Back at home and thirty years on they admit to still craving the adrenaline rush of the kill, half-aware of the social implications of admitting a taste for killing. ‘They were the enemy… It’s easy to pull the trigger.’ Dredging the dark side, First Kill contemplates the possibility that there’s a killer lurking within us all. — Michael McDonnell 

We don’t like admitting to the dark side, that we can experience so much beauty and pleasure in a situation considered to be truly horrible. If the experience was hell, and only hell, [if] that was the essence of the experience, I don’t think people would continue to make war... I’m not John Wayne junior, I’m not a blood-and-guts guy. I just have an extreme attraction to war and the Vietnam War was very satisfying. I was drawn to it by very wild and violent adolescent emotions. I went there to write a book, and therefore what I was seeing was material [for the book]. It was a way of making it less real. The ultimate blood sport… [In war] there’s a clarity to your life. You don’t have to live out some phony life-and-death fantasy when you’re in a real life-and-death situation… A lot of it was teenage bravado, a lot of it was from the heart, because these guys had found something they were good at. The felt they were born to do it. Maybe they were… I don’t think we’re natural born killers, any more than the fact that because we reproduce makes us a race of lovers. [But] you have to make some adjustments to your perceptions to make allowances for these horrors we are capable of… If you’re going to subscribe to the collective consciousness – and I would encourage people to do so – then you’ve also got to subscribe to the collective unconscious because that’s where the real shit happens. — Michael Herr, First Kill