Standard Operating Procedure

By Gerald Aaron, July 18, 2008


The whole world knows about the ill-treatment of inmates of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail, not least because of their American army tormentors documented proceedings in a set of photographs.

Noted documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (see p33) regards his examination of what went on at Abu Ghraib as “a non-fiction horror movie”, and there is no doubting the impact he achieves. He uses the infamous photographs and camera interviews with five of the indicted US military personnel, all of them surprisingly articulate in front of the camera. 

These interviews are fascinating, even though one is left with the uncomfortable sensation of watching and hearing rather too much carefully shaped post-hoc justification. Also, I found Morris’s flashy visual style and use of staged reconstructions diluted the force of the film. Such a horrifying real-life story does not require superfluous artistic “decoration” to make its scarifying points.

Last updated: 2:59pm, February 18 2011