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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, July 31, 2014 - Edition No 908 

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STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Photographs taken by soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison towards the end of 2003 changed America's image of itself. It also raised profound questions: did the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs constitute evidence of systematic abuse by the American military, or were they documenting the aberrant behavior of a few "bad apples"? The filmmaker sets out to examine the context of these photographs. Why were they taken? What was happening outside the frame? He talks directly to the soldiers who took the photographs and who were in the photographs. Who are these people? What were they thinking?

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
They fuelled anti-American feelings and ignited world wide condemnation; the photos from Abu Ghraib prison of US soldiers torturing and/or humiliating Iraqi prisoners launched a myriad questions and the media has not properly answered them. Erroll Morris has taken the time and effort to move from the shallow end of the media pool to the turbulent waters of investigating human behaviour that is not as simplistic as the knee jerk reactions it triggers. Like his famous police culture doco, The Thin Blue Line, Standard Operating Procedure provides a complex insight into a phenomenon that confronts us about our humanity.

It's not a guilt trip or a blame game; it's not merciless but it is incisive. It's not exploitative but it is graphic. Morris uses the tools and language of cinema to present his investigation in the harsh light of the objective reporter. That's not to say he disallows emotion - far from it. But the emotional hit comes from the light he is able to shed on the whole drama, from its low level participants to the military brass who remain hidden behind shields of self protection.

The film leaves it up to us to silently pursue the most probing questions about human nature as his film unfolds. This is how we become involved in the scandal and through this involvement we begin to draw some understanding of it. This is a huge achievement, given the subject matter. If it were merely an attempt to cast America as the great Satan, it would have failed because it would have been shallow and hollow. (Who can forget the great torturing dictatorships of history, past and present, from the Nazis and Communists to the many military juntas? We just don't have the footage and the photos ....)

The interviews with the participants (those not still in jail) are conducted in extreme close up (using his special camera set up that enables the subjects to look directly into camera but actually see him) and the actual photos and videos are augmented by obliquely produced re-enactments. The result is a film of great sadness about how we humans debase ourselves; it's also an important reminder to never jump to conclusions from appearances.

DVD special features include director's commentary and deleted scenes.

Published January 22, 2009



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE: DVD (MA)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Documentary featuring Lynndie England and her fellow soldiers who had served at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in late 2003.

PRODUCER: Erroll Morris, Julie Bilson Ahlberg

DIRECTOR: Erroll Morris

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Chappell & Robert Richardson, ASC

EDITOR: Andy Grieve, Staven Hathaway, Dan Mooney

MUSIC: Danny elfman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Steve Hardie

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 3, 2008

PRESENTATION: 16 x 9

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary, deleted scenes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

DVD RELEASE: January 21, 2009







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