Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Standard Operating Procedure

Leon casino,

Errol Morris, no stranger to polemic cinema (Thin Blue Line, Fog of War), brings together forensic evidence and eye-witness testimony from Abu Ghraib in a manner that leaves no doubt what went down on one particularly dark night of the soul.
All the people involved in that scandal, all of whom are currently serving time, are seen save for one (he got the longest sentence), along with a couple of experts who first examined the evidence.
Three digital (you probably have one sitting next to you) cameras were used during the ordeal and Morris presents a graphic that takes the digital info on each device and spreads it across the screen in three horizontal lines, then vertically aligns them by the time and date until you actually see that one moment was captured, front and back, by two of the cameras. Similar albeit broader ground was covered in Taxi to the Dark Side, a searing documentary on the corruption of the war that won an Academy Award and made less than a million dollars at the box office.
Morris seems intent on putting his subjects under good light, and they seem equally intent on providing truth. Press reports have stated that some of the interviewees were paid, but that’s not uncommon for feature docs. In between the filmed testimony we have recreations of the environment of a prison room so cramped for space that you get claustrophobic just looking in its direction. SOP may not rate among the top of Morris' work, but like all his films it leaves you in thinking mode.


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