Humanities Festival's 2006 theme was Peace and War.
When I saw Errol
Morris was part of the program I was pleased but semi-surprised.
He's my favorite documentary filmmaker, but when I think
of Peace and War, I don't think of EM. It was perfect when
Morris began his talk by explaining that his career
has been about two kinds of movies: "Politically Concerned"
and "Completely Whacked Out." I discovered EM
for myself with Fast,
Cheap and Out of Control, so it's the Completely Whacked
docs that stick out to me.
introduced us to his latest project about the Abu Ghraib,
and the iconic images created from the prisoner torture.
It's his hypothesis that it's a handful of those photos
from that we'll remember a hundred years from now about
the Iraq War. He explained that this project began with
the mystery of two photos by Roger
Fenton described by Susan
Sontag in her book, Regarding
the Pain of Others. During the Crimean War, Fenton
took photos of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Two
are of the same road, one with cannonballs littering the
road, one with the cannonballs in the ravine. The Mystery
being which photo was taken first, which was staged?
presentation mostly talked about that idea of the iconic
photograph. What can we learn from them? To what extent
are they posed or performance? An interesting aspect about
the Abu Ghraib project is that Morris has the opportunity
to interview the photographers. We have an opportunity for
more context than just the images themselves.
an anecdote I enjoyed that didn't make it to the drawing.
Like I said, I became aware of Errol Morris with the documentary
Cheap and Out of Control. The movie is about four men:
a topiary gardener, a robotic scientist, a naked mole rat
specialist and a wild animal tamer. Turns out that there
was a fifth man, Fred
A. Leuchter, Jr. interviewed for the film. Uh, what's
the short story of Leuchter? He began by trying to create
more humane capital punishment devices and ended up hired
by holocaust deniers to prove the holocaust didn't happen.
felt like FL didn't fit in the mix. His wife summed it up,
"Hitler is not a spice. Once you add Hitler to the
soup, it becomes Hitler flavored soup."
ended up removing Leuchter from Fast, Cheap and Out of Control
and made the movie Mr.Death
about him instead. Neatly putting the former into the Completely
Whacked Out category of his work, and the latter in the
Politically Concerned camp. I can recommend both highly.