Tuesday, September 25, 2007



Rob Devaney as Lawyer McCoy, Kel O’Neill as Gabe Blix,
Izzy Diaz as Angel Salazar and Patrick Carroll as Reno Flake in
Directed by Brian De Palma, US, 2007; 110m
Photo: courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Redacted is one of the most harrowing movies I have ever seen. My stomach was still churning long after the screening.

Brian De Palma has made a fictional film inspired by events from Iraq: a teenage girl reportedly was raped by American soldiers, who killed her family, shot her, and torched their house. The movie describes the before, during, and after of a fictional, similar event.

Interestingly, the story would not be credible if it were not inspired by a real event, and yet it is much more powerful than any documentary can be.

The film is constructed brilliantly. It unfolds as if it were a video blog made by one of the solders; and then as a documentary made by a foreign journalist; as a surveillance video; and again as a video blog. The camcorder used by the soldier, "fortunately," has the resolution and quality of a professional Hollywood camera. (It was shot in HD.) -- This is not a grainy, soft-focus simulation of an amateur camera.

The acting is excellent. It is hard to believe, sometimes, that these are actors (mostly relative newcomers, in fact) and not real, vicious, criminal soldiers.

The film was shot in Jordan, and certainly looks like the Iraq shown in news footage.

One of the producers was Mark Cuban (who can be seen on this year's Dancing With The Stars!) and his company,
Magnolia Pictures (which recently released Fay Grim -- a picture I liked a lot) .

Some years ago, Brian De Palma made a film,
Casualties of War, of a kidnapping, rape and murder of a teen in Vietnam, in a film with Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn, written by Daniel Lang (book) and David Rabe (screenplay). (David Rabe is currently working on a screenplay about Capone for De Palma.)

At last year's
Hampton's Film Festival (HIFF), the opening night film, The Situation, was about Iraq from the point of view of a journalist... in the Green zone and visiting with friends among Iraqis. This gave a picture of a hopelessly divided country, with clueless American administrators. Another film about Iraq is at HIFF this year.

I found the title just a bit strange. Although portions of the report on the soldiers raid were shown as redacted (redacted -- prepared for publication; especially by removing portions not wanted to be made public), this hardly seeemd to be the real subject of the movie. But here is De Palma's statement about the title. After hearing about the incident, he thought,

"I told this story years ago in my film Casualties of War. But the lessons from the Vietnam War have gone unheeded. But how to tell the story today? And how did it all begin?

"How could these boys have gone so wrong? In searching for the answers, I read soldiers' blogs, books, watched soldiers' home made war videos, surfed their web sites, and their YouTube postings. It was all there, and all in video.

"To redact is to edit, or prepare for publishing. Frequently, a redacted document or image has simply had personal (or possibly actionable) information deleted or blacked out; as a consequence, redacted is often used to describe documents or images from which sensitive information has been expunged. The true story of our Iraq war has been redacted from the Main Stream Corporate Media. If we are going to cause such disorder then we must face the horrendous images that are the consequences of these actions. Once we saw them in Vietnam our citizens protested and brought that misguided conflict to an end. Let's hope the images from this film have the same effect."

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