fbpx

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Director: ERROL MORRIS

U.S.A. • 2008 • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 118 MIN


THE WORLD’S MOST INFLUENTIAL DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER, ERROL MORRIS CASTS HIS PROBING GAZE ON THE DETAINEE ABUSE PHOTOS FROM ABU GHRAIB PRISON AND THE RESULT IS A COMPLEX, INVOLVING LOOK AT THE COLLISION BETWEEN DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY, HUMAN FRAILTY AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S CLOUDY APPROACH TO THE GENEVA CONVENTION.
The pictures of piled-up bodies, naked men on leads and a hooded figure trailing electrical wires are by now worryingly familiar—but are they all that they seem? Using the direct-to-camera interview style which graced his Oscar-winner ‘The Fog of War’, Morris confronts the military personnel who took the shots, and the special agent who collated the evidence for court martial proceedings, playing their testimony against deliberately artificial reconstructions and the notorious images themselves. Anyone expecting a hatchet-job underestimates Morris’ facility for finding the human element within even the most disreputable individuals. What emerges is the confusion and anger of young, poorly trained soldiers who are encouraged to use sexual humiliation techniques to break down their Muslim captives and are then brought to book for snapping themselves doing it.
The film has been criticised in the U.S. for even giving these convicted MPs a hearing, yet Morris leaves the viewer to navigate their contradictions: the notion that the photos were taken by the soldiers to draw attention to the abuse is hard to square with the fact they were also staging abusive acts especially for the camera. It all primes us to wonder what was going on outside the photo frame, and ask why disciplinary action only affected the lower levels of the command chain. This is a troubling yet essential confrontation with one of America’s murkiest hours.—Trevor Johnston.

Book Tickets

}