Remembering the shocking images of Abu Ghraib is not an easy thing to do. While it caught most of the world off guard, it came as something fairly expected of a US-invader. But for one of the few times in history, images and videos played such an essential role in documenting a horrific crime. To revisit that crime, and to truly document it, there is perhaps no one better for the job than Errol Morris who took my breath away with the brilliant, Academy Award-winning documentary, “Fog Of War”. Abu Ghraib is brought to life with reenactments, and stunning photography. The crime is documented and chronicled by tracing the time stamp of every infamous photograph in a film with obviously great production values, and a fairly large cast for a “documentary”. It retains Morris’ visual styles adopted in “Fog Of War”, as he interviews the many army personnel who were involved in the scandal, some of who have faces that we might all recognize.
All together, the film is provocative and often times disgusting. The images are some times terrifying and the stories behind them are even worse, especially hearing them from some of the people that help commit them, or stood by and watched it happen. What is perhaps the worst part of the whole film is the lack of remorse. The interviewees all acknowledged the wrongdoing, but none were actually sorry it happened. They were rather sorry for getting caught. To most, the reactions were that it was someone else’s fault, or that they had to do it because that was the environment and they couldn’t stop it, or they were ordered to do it.
The major undertone of their opinions center on the events being “standard operating procedure” (SOP). And with that in mind, the film attempts to dissect each event that happened in that prison as either an SOP or an actual criminal act. The film also addresses other essential themes, such as taking responsibility, the military environment, and the sanctioning of torture.
The power of this documentary is that most people have been fooled in to thinking they know everything there is to know about Abu Ghraib, having lived through the endless media cycles of that fiasco. The truth is, most people don’t know the actual stories, they just know the pictures, and that in itself is a powerful reflection of how big an impact images have in our contemporary visual world. It is a documentary everyone must see, but keeping in mind that some of these images might haunt you.
A must see: 5/5
h/t: nadine (for loaning it out)