Friday, October 24, 2008
Standard Operating Procedure by Errol Morris
Errol Morris is the most interesting artist dedicated to the documentary over the last thirty years. He doesn't have the box office success that Michael Moore has had, but his work is more complex and illuminating, and far more diverse. Morris makes movies about whatever fascinates him. From a murder in Texas to Robert McNamara to Stephen Hawking to naked mole rats, I never know what to expect from one of his films and I always learn something new.
Morris' latest work, Standard Operating Procedure, is about the Abu Ghraib prison, the pictures that were taken there and people who were punished, either through court-martial or demotion. The movie didn't get an audience in the theaters, but I hope more people will see it now that it is out on video.
Quite simply, if you think you know what went on there because you saw the pictures, most of what you know is wrong. I watched the movie and the extended scenes and the director's commentary, and I advise anyone reading this to do the same. I don't want to give anything away, but Morris in his commentary gives his underlying reason for making the film in these terms.
Do photos tell stories?
What is the context of a snapshot? What happened just before the shot, and what happened after?
What was the motive of the person taking the pictures?
I'm a big fan of documentaries, and this is one of the best I have seen in a very long time. Matty Boy says check it out.