Sunday, 22 June 2008

EIFF: Standard Operating Procedure - Review by Guest Contributor Peter Gerard

Director: Errol Morris
Running Time: 116 mins

When you have set the standard for epistemological debate in documentary as high as Errol Morris did with "The Thin Blue Line" it is always going to be hard to address similar issues to the same effect. Morris takes on Abu Ghraib in his inimitable style, juxtaposing the infamous photos of U.S. military torture with interviews with the soldiers responsible. As usual, he peppers the film with exquisitely filmed re-enactments and visual motifs. Building on his Interrotron innovation (the tele-prompter-based camera system he built to encourage his interviewees to always look straight into the lens), in "S.O.P" the interviewees appear to be looking at the photographs while looking into the lens. The effect works well, giving the viewer a direct experience of their reactions to the photos.The central question of the film seems to focus on how much truth can be garnered from a photograph. While indeed an intriguing entry-point, Morris does not manage to dig deep enough into the question of whether those punished at Abu Ghraib were used to cover up endemic corruption and torture throughout the military command. Instead, at times the film feels more like a simple recounting of the horrific events that took place in Abu Ghraib. While the film maintains its engaging pace and visual stimulus to the end, it seems to have under-delivered on its promise of debating the truth.

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