Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

WORLD CINEMA

Festivals

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Venice 2007: The Horror that Iraq is

The Venice Film Festival got a shot of adrenalin when Brian De Palma did a Michael Moore on the Lido. His “Redacted”, competing for the Golden Lion, is a disturbing comment on how horribly wrong the Iraq war has gone. “Once again a senseless war has produced a senseless tragedy”, he says in his notes. “I told this story years ago in my film, ‘Casualties of War’. But the lessons from the Vietnam War have gone unheeded”.

“Redacted” is a feature that often appears like a documentary, but is not: so expertly has it been mounted on HD video that the images seem like real footage. It tells the terrible story of how some soldiers under constant pressure become animal like, raping and killing a defenceless 15-year-old Iraqi girl and destroying her family. Sadly, the true story of the Iraq war has been redacted from mainstream media.

Palma explained to reporters that redacted is the legal term for editing out undesirable information particularly in documents such as soldiers’ letters. But of course. Have we not seen that happen in Sri Lanka, and earlier in Vietnam, where the media was fed with “convenient” truth, and journalists faithfully vomited this out in print and on screen!

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Jones and Theron
There was more of Iraq at Venice. Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah” has Tommy Lee Jones playing one of his best parts ever, as Hank Deerfield, former military MP and father of a missing American soldier who had just returned from Iraq. When the news is broken to him and his wife (Susan Sarandon), Deerfield takes it upon himself to solve the riddle, and as he wades through military and police red tape, he finds that his son was a victim of foul play. But in all this misery and mess, he finds a friend in Emily Sanders (played equally well by Charlize Theron), a detective just promoted from the Traffic Department, fighting for respect from her colleagues. A single mother herself, she understands the pain of a man who has lost two of his sons, one earlier in a copter crash, most gruesomely.

In part an adaptation of a Playboy magazine article by Mark Boal called "Death and Dishonour," the Haggis version is a powerful portrait of a man seeking logic during a time of confusion and turmoil.

(Webposted September 1 2007)