US documentary films and Oscars 2008

This video from the USA is the film Standard Operating Procedure.

By Jennifer Merin,, in the USA:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Documentary Branch Nominating Committee has shortlisted fifteen films for consideration for the 2008 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Five will make it to the voting ballot. One will win the golden statuette.

At the Death House Door is a personal and intimate look at the death penalty in Texas through the eyes of Pastor Carroll Pickett, a prison chaplain who has shepherded many death row inmates to their executions, and the effects that his 15 year career and mission have had on his life. …

‘Encounters at the End of the World’

While seeking answers to his own set of curious questions, filmmaker Werner Herzog creates a fascinating travelogue that takes us to locations few humans have visited and introduces us to Antarctica, the wondrous place known as the Big Ice.

Read Review here. …

‘Standard Operating Procedure’

It’s unclear just why American soldiers in charge of interrogating suspected terrorists at Abu Ghraib decided to take photos of some of their harsher techniques, but when their pictures of shackled, naked men forced into humiliating and terrifying behavior became public, they instigated an investigation that eventually brought criminal indictment of the soldiers, incarceration and dishonorable discharges from their military careers. Filmmaker Errol Morris looks beyond the infamous photographs to discover that the bad behavior shown was typical, and known to their superior officers–who were never punished.

Read Review

They Killed Sister Dorothy

In 2005, Sister Dorothy Stang, a 75 year old nun from Dayton, Ohio, was shot six times and left to die on a muddy road in the Brazilian Amazon. They Killed Sister Dorothy is the poignant and alarming story of her murder, and a thorough investigation of who killed her and why.

‘Trouble the Water’

The defining moment in Tia Lessen and Carl Deal’s post-Katrina documentary, Trouble The Water, comes at the beginning of the film, when the filmmakers, in New Orleans to record the disaster’s aftermath, meet Kimberly Roberts, who’d survived the hurricane and shares her compelling story–and the harrowing video she’d shot of the calamitous event that put her Ninth Ward home and everything around it under water.

Read Review

5 thoughts on “US documentary films and Oscars 2008

  1. Posted by: “Compañero”

    Mon Nov 24, 2008 8:42 pm (PST)

    A Ticket to The Hague for Dick Cheney?
    By Scott Horton

    Gene Burns is one of the nation€ ¦´s most popular talk radio hosts. For years he has dismissed accounts of torture; America, he has said, does not torture. But last night, after watching Torturing Democracy and realizing that he had not understood how important and serious an issue torture had become, Burns abruptly changed his tune. Here€ ¦´s a transcript of his remarks.

    I now believe that some international human rights organization ought to open an investigation of the Bush Administration, I think focused on Vice President Dick Cheney, and attempt to bring charges against Cheney in the international court of justice at The Hague, for war crimes. Based on the manner in which we have treated prisoners at Guant€ ¦ánamo Bay, and the manner in which we have engaged in illegal rendition-that is, surreptitiously kidnapping prisoners and flying them to foreign countries where they could be tortured by foreign agents who do not follow the same civilized standards to which we subscribe.

    I€ ¦´ve always said that I€ ¦´ve thought that even at Guant€ ¦ánamo Bay the United States was careful to stay on this side of torture. In fact, you may recall that on a couple of occasions we got into a spirited debate on this program about waterboarding, and whether waterboarding was torture. And I took the position that it was not torture, that it was simulated drowning, and that if that produced information which preserved our national security, I thought it was permissible.

    And then I saw Torturing Democracy.

    And I€ ¦´m afraid, now that I have seen what I have seen, that I was wrong about that. It looks to me, based on this documentary, as if in fact we have engaged in behavior and practices at Guant€ ¦ánamo Bay, and in these illegal renditions, that are violations of the international human rights code.

    And I believe that Dick Cheney is responsible. I believe that he was the agent of the United States government charged with developing the methodology used at Guant€ ¦ánamo Bay, supervising it for the administration, and indulging in practices which are in fact violations of human rights.

    A large part of the population still credits the Bush Administration€ ¦´s absurd claim that it never embraced or applied torture to detainees as a matter of policy. Two recent documentaries, Alex Gibney€ ¦´s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side (for which I was both a consultant and interviewee) and Sherry Jones€ ¦´s PBS feature Torturing Democracy investigate the administration€ ¦´s policies and conduct. Both draw from decision-makers inside the administration and soldiers on the frontline.

    The administration did its best to spike both films. Taxi was to be aired on the Discovery Channel, but with Discovery Communications then in the process of going public and facing sensitive SEC clearances, executives apparently decided not to risk provoking the anger of the White House. As I reported elsewhere, PBS also found that it had no network space for Torturing Democracy until January 20, 2009-the day the Bush Administration decamps from Washington.

    Why was the administration so concerned about these two films? The
    conversion of Gene Burns supplies the answer. No one who sits through these films, I believe, will be able afterwards to accept the official version of events. George Bush has good reason to be afraid of too many Americans watching these documentaries.


  2. Scott,

    I find your comment most interesting, and it’s proof positive that documentaries are important vehicles for delivering information and stimulating social debate. I’m curious to know how you’d respond to my current blog at “Bush Pardons Offenders: Should Prisoner Torturers Be Among Them?,” which points viewers to “Taxi to the Dark Side” (last year’s Oscar-winning documentary) and “Standard Operating Procedure,” short listed for the 2008 Academy Award. If you care to let me know, that would be great.

    Anyway, it’s good news that Oscar glow acknowledges the brilliance of these documentaries and spreads awareness of them…and leads to people watching more documentaries, in general.

    Jennifer Merin


  3. Author : Jennifer Merin
    URL :
    I find your comments very interesting, and proof positive that documentaries are important vehicles for making the facts known and stimulating social debate. Curious to know how you\’d answer the question posed on my current blog: Bush Pardons Offenders: Should Prisoner Torturers Be Among Them?, which you can read at Of course, both \”Taxi To The Dark Side\” and \”Standard Operating Procedure\” put this question in front of the viewing public, and it\’s genuinely good news that \”Taxi\” was recognized last year with an Oscar, and \”SOP\” has been short listed for consideration for this year\’s Best Documentary statuette.
    Jennifer Merin


  4. Re #2 and 3: Hi Jennifer Merin, thanks for your reaction. I have restored your comment #3 as over zealous anti spam software had stopped it.

    As for your question, I cannot speak for Scott Horton; but my own view about the pardon issue is here.


  5. Pingback: Oscar nominations in Hollywood, USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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