Is it possible for a photograph to change the world? Photographs taken by soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison changed the war in Iraq and changed America’s image of itself. Yet, a central mystery remains. 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”?
We set out to examine the context of these photographs. Why were they taken? What was happening outside the frame? We talked directly to the soldiers who took the photographs and who were in the photographs. Who are these people? What were they thinking? Over two years of investigation, we amassed a million and a half words of interview transcript, thousands of pages of unredacted reports, and hundreds of photographs.
The story of Abu Ghraib is still shrouded in moral ambiguity, but it is clear what happened there. The Abu Ghraib photographs serve as both an expose and a coverup. An expose, because the photographs offer us a glimpse of the horror of Abu Ghraib; and a coverup because they convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything, that there was no need to look further. In recent news reports, we have learned about the destruction of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation tapes. A coverup. It has been front page news. But the coverup at Abu Ghraib involved thousands of prisoners and hundreds of soldiers. We are still learning about the extent of it. Many journalists have asked about “the smoking gun” of Abu Ghraib. It is the wrong question. As Philip Gourevitch has commented, Abu Ghraib is the smoking gun. The underlying question that we still have not resolved, four years after the scandal: how could American values become so compromised that Abu Ghraib—and the subsequent coverup—could happen? —errolmorris.com
Since the premiere of his groundbreaking 1978 film, “Gates of Heaven,” Errol Morris has indelibly altered our perception of the non-fiction film, presenting to audiences the mundane, bizarre and history-making with his own distinctive élan.
Roger Ebert has said, “After twenty years of reviewing films, I haven’t found another filmmaker who intrigues me more…Errol Morris is like a magician, and as great a filmmaker as Hitchcock or Fellini.”
Recently, Morris was highly praised for his short film that ran at the front of the 2002 Academy Awards, where he asked an admixture of anonymous and well-known people outside the movie business to talk about what they love about movies.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara, which was theatrically released in December, 2003 is his seventh documentary feature film. The film tells the story of Robert S. McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. Combining… read more
The overly-sympathetic portrayal of Sabrina Harmon was a tad disconcerting (really? the science of facial expressions?), and didn't quite get at the complexity of violence and war. Also, I was a bit frustrated with the high-production, super-stylized reenactments that reeked of ESPN specials. I was expecting a football player to walk in the shot and drip sweat in slow motion.
An important uncovering without a doubt with a fair amount of punches to the "supposed to be good" Americans in Iraq. The problem is really Morris' scope which I find a bit too narrow and repetitive with the whole "I'm just the capo" act over and over. I wanted fresh answers from others and not just the oblivious "cause it seemed right at the time" from the people interviewed.
I think its not only about what happened at Abu Ghraib, but what is a photograph, a digital photograph at that. Is it real/tangible? Just data? Can it be held as truth? What is the true ontology of a photographic image? I'm not exactly sure about the answers to these questions but they are definitely something to consider. You guys arguing below should try letting the narrative take the backseat next time you watch.
To the poster below me: you must not be very familiar with the history of world powers, because this lack of human decency is hardly exclusive to the United States. The imperialistic flavor of the week has changed a few times, but the human condition has remained relatively constant for better and/or worse.
This is an incredible bit of movie making. If you couldn’t get enough of this story when it broke then you must see this. The soundtrack is what you might expect from a Tim Burton movie and it has… read review
While I initally found the reconstruction elements and Danny Elfman’s score a distraction, Morris soon moves the film into a quietly powerful expose of what happens when the powerful save themselves… read review
The strongest thing about Errol Morris’ documentary is how it doesn’t concern itself with politics, but focuses on the personal stories of those actually involved in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal… read review