Monday, November 28, 2011

Standard Operating Procedure

2008, US, directed by Errol Morris

I couldn't help feeling that this was a major missed opportunity. Sure, it reawakens the outrage that many of us felt as photos of abuse and apparent abuse appeared from Abu Ghraib, and suggests that the photos were evidence of a much more systemic set of attitudes to Iraqi prisoners. However, Errol Morris's unrelenting focus on those photographs contributes to lack of accountability further up the line, because we cannot see those people committing or ordering criminal acts, as opposed to what we can see in the photos of lower-rank personnel. By limiting the consideration to the examination of the pictures we see, there's little sense of what went on outside the frame because that evidence would take a very different form. As an aside, although I've generally enjoyed Morris's visual style in the past here I found the shots of his interviewees were often distractingly unflattering, whether through choice of close up/angle (Lynndie England comes off particularly badly) or background (which does no favours for Janis Karpinski, for instance).

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States