The way information is packaged, distributed and received in an era with infinite channels of communication, is explored in a montage of stories around a small group of American soldiers stationed at a checkpoint in Iraq. Redacted utilizes a variety of created source material-video diaries, produced documentary, surveillance footage, online testimonials, news pieces, to comment on the disconnect between the surface of an image and the reality of ideas and the truth, especially in time of war. The experiences of these young men under duress are juxtaposed with those of members of the media and of the local Iraqi people.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The film begins with two statements - one is gradually 'censored' out of existence, the other reads: 'redacted visually documents imagined events, before, during and after a 2006 rape and murder in Samarra'. US soldier Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz) welcomes us as he starts shooting his personal video diary. Others are doing the same, but it's Angel's we see most. Through this diary and through other material, including a news report by a French doco team, De Palma imagines a series of events and puts words into the mouths of the soldiers.
But these and the other devices make the film seem documentary than imagined - as the opening statement suggests. So we're being manipulated, and the irony is that the filmmaker is trying to prove how manipulated we are by the various interests around the Iraq war. The danger of fiction masquerading as fact is as great as distortions of fact. But while De Palma shows a vibrant cinematic sense as he attacks his subject, some of it is on the verge of risible. Like when a group of soldiers storms a home and in the midst of the action, a female journalist suddenly appears and thrusts her microphone into the face of a hapless soldier who blusters stupidly.
That risible scene becomes the starting point for a total breakdown in the morals of the soldiers in our frame. De Palma's intent is to imagine how this scenario [the rape of a girl and the murder of her family, which made headlines] might have come about: how do decent young US lads become such monsters. If not for their predicament. But that doesn't excuse the guilty, the men whose flawed character is the real problem. Men have also behaved as heroes in such circumstances. Sadly, US soldiers are not alone in such failures of decency; history, past and present, is full of them. De Palma's heartfelt scream of pain is sincere, but too angry to be rational.
Confronting and challenging but adding nothing new, the best thing that could be hoped for the film is that it helps change US policy - and helps US policymakers to make more intelligent decisions than the ones which ran the Iraq war.
Published November 20, 2008
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REDACTED: DVD (MA)
CAST: Eric 'Happy' Anderson, Izzy Diaz, Patrick Carroll, Mike Figueroa, Rob Devaney, Ty Jones, Kel O'Neill, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Zahra Zubaidi, Suhail Abdel Hussein, Qazi Freihat
DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma
SCRIPT: Brian De Palma
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jonathon Cliff
EDITOR: Bill Pankow
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Phillip Baker
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Interview with Director, Brian De Palma; Refugee Interviews; Behind the Scenes
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: November 5, 2008
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