Sunday, March 09, 2008

Redacted

Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) wrote and directed the experimental film Redacted, an almost unwatchable and deeply disturbing piece about the events surrounding the very factual Mahmudiyah Killings where US soldiers raped a fourteen year old girl, set her on fire, and killed her entire family including her five year old sister. The astute quickly recognize they are watching cinema from the edge with massive doses of meta-content. Quoting filmjack3 at IMDB:

like Godard with his video experiments, Redacted is about its subject but it's also about process.

Like Blair Witch Project, we're seeing things "as-they-happen" by the view-point of a camera that a soldier, Angel, is carrying and using as an in to get into film school someday...De Palma's story indicts the whole process of viewing things through the filter of the lens...there are moments when the characters realize that they're on video, and suddenly they either get irate and continue acting as themselves, or they start to posture for the camera...we get the messiness of raw camera-work from the soldier, the embedded journalists, the news media covering the story, web-casts obviously out of you-tube, and a French documentary crew doing a film on the group of soldiers covering the checkpoint.

The technique is almost a comment on itself, and it's one of the curious ideas behind the experiment of Redacted that makes it interesting. We know that when a security camera or when Angel's camera put on a seat meant to be shut off captures objectively what's going on - like the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" scene or the plot to go after the family. But there's an inverse to this as well since De Palma is filming this with a script and with actors (who arguably are good at being naturalistic two-dimensional soldiers), since there is a stylization, yet without calling attention to the self-consciousness the audience feels during this.


The film ranks among the most brutal yet about the humanitarian crisis created by the war and the sheer degree of suffering and carnage it has created. Those wanting a taste of Iraq that will not be served on mainstream media as well as a trip into new cinematic terrain may want to take a look.

Those having seen Jarhead or Home of the Brave will find this work cuts far closer to the day-to-day, minute-to-minute gritty experience of reality. You feel like you are there. The film is the first I've seen that shows extended footage of a blog, staying still on the computer for a over a minute while it plays a video. De Palma intentionally gives the viewer time to digest the surrounding blog content, posted by a soldier's wife so he can look at material about his family. Think Web 2.0 meets Blair Witch in Iraq. Prepare to be outraged and disturbed.

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