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  • Saturday, December 27, 2008


    Recent Documentaries

    I'm a bit of a documentary lover so a fair number of docs make their way into my DVD player. Here are a few I've seen recently.

    A series called "Speaking Freely" has five volumes so far. Some may find them boring because the format has the subject talking for fifty minutes at a pop. There are a few edits to break it up into subject sections but that's it. No questions, no on-screen interviewer. At least, not in the two I've seen.

    Speaking Freely Volume 4: Chalmers Johnson is excellent. Mr. Chalmers has a fascinating history including a stint as a CIA analyst. During the Cold War, he was a hawkish Cold Warrior. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the failure of the US to draw down their military in the aftermath led him to view the US as an imperialist power. Quite a change in perspective. He's an engaging speaker (he's a professor) and his analysis is clear and understandable. Five out of five spies in from the cold.

    Speaking Freely Volume 3: Ray McGovern is a little less engaging but still very educational. Mr. McGovern was a CIA analyst for a long time but became disillusioned by the politicization of the agency. His familiarity with the intelligence community give added weight to his perspective. 4 out of 5 spies.

    I had high expectations for Standard Operating Procedure (IMDb listing) by Errol Morris. While I enjoyed it, I was a little underwhelmed. I was particularly interested in seeing the uncensored photos and videos from Abu Ghraib. I'm sure these can be found online but I've never looked. The doc puts them into context and perspective and give a bit of a timeline for them. Memorable appalling moment: Lynndie England speaking about the infamous image of the hooded detainee on a box with his arms spread and wires attached to him. The detainee was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted. (The wires were not hooked up to any power source.) Ms. England says it was just words, not torture. How can only words be torture? Overall, though, it was a rather narrow perspective, rarely surfacing beyond the immediate group of MPs blamed for the events. 2.5 out of 5.

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