Not well-appreciated in its time, this satirical docu-style fiction feels like the last word on America’s controversial involvement in the Iraq War, and sees De Palma at his most liberal and provocative.
Dir. Brian De Palma
2007 | USA/Canada | Drama/War/Crime | 91 mins | 1.85:1 | English, French & Arabic
M18 (passed clean) for strong disturbing violent content including a rape, pervasive language and some sexual references/images
Cast: Patrick Carroll, Rob Devaney, Izzy Diaz, Ty Jones, Mike Figueroa
Plot: The devastating reconstruction of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl by American soldiers in Samarra in 2006.
Awards: Won Silver Lion – Best Director & Future Film Festival Digital Award (Venice)
Subject Matter: Disturbing – Iraq War, Rape, Injustice
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
I’m actually surprised how good Redacted is, considering the general critical disdain accorded to it back in 2007. It, however, won the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival and was listed as the best film of the year by the respected Cahiers du Cinema. Well, it seems like they were right on the money.
Seeing the film now, it almost feels like a relic of a distant past—the burgeoning digital era as it were, with shoddy aesthetics, gimmicky transitions and DIY-style content creation.
To think that director Brian De Palma was shrewd enough to capture not just a snapshot of America’s controversial involvement in the Iraq War but also using the tools of the trade of the time that reflect the medium’s affordances and audience-implicating effects.
As such, Redacted, a satirical ‘found footage’-style fiction feels like the last word on the failed war. Based on the true incident of a young Iraqi girl raped and murdered by US soldiers, Redacted investigates the notion of truth by blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
“I didn’t do a damn thing.”
Because De Palma’s mode of address is in the form of a constructed documentary (that, at the same time, is meant to be deconstructed by the viewer’s active engagement with a variety of visual stimuli, including websites with disturbing embedded videos, and footage of a French woman engaging in reportage), it gives us an acute sense of immediacy that while staged produces a rare authenticity that puts us right there in the chaos.
Yet, because of the distance provided by its staging, we aren’t necessarily conditioned to be emotionally involved… until we are by the end of the whole experiment.
Redacted is not an easy watch, but it tells us how America lost the war without telling us how America lost the war. In that sense, De Palma was far ahead of his time.