Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007) is a new HBO original documentary directed by Rory Kennedy (daughter of Robert F. Kennedy who as assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968 – the MGM/Weinstein Company film “Bobby”), produced by Liz Garbus, from Moxie Firecracker Films and Sundance.

The film starts with a black and white skit of a training session in 1961 where agents are conditioned to administer what they believe to the electric shocks, from a distance, to actors in another room.

The film proper consists of “topic pages” with white on black, and builds up with interviews of the soldiers. There was a certain contagious group think, as soldiers began to perceive this as quasi-normal. When the murder of one Iraqi was covered up, one soldier was prosecuted for taking illegal pictures.

The film ends with a return the black-and-white 1961 experiment, with a sobering warning that individual people tend to have little moral compass when they believe others in charge are making decisions for them. Although this film is in a military context, historically this has staggering ramifications for all of us.

The film is not rated, but it has many still photos of the Iraqi prisoners in complete nudity, in one case in a "pyramid." It would likely correspond to "R".

The film was not screened in the recent AFI Silverdocs in Silver Spring, but it would appear that it could have been. Another HBO film “Coma” was screened.

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