You might have heard about the shouting match between Brian De Palma and Magnolia Pictures’ Eamonn Bowles at a New York Film Festival press conference on Monday. De Palma claimed that by obscuring certain photos of (real) wounded soldiers at the end of Redacted, Magnolia — the distribution arm of HDNet — had redacted the film itself. No one but the principals really knows if the photos were blacked out for legal reasons (because the distributor didn’t have the rights to use them) or because of HDNet owner Mark Cuban’s alleged objection to them. But if the legal issue is a smoke screen, then the photos need to go back at once. They’re intended to convey De Palma’s outrage over the death and destruction happening beyond the film frame — happening this instant.
I write that as someone divided over their use in an otherwise fictionalized depiction: I think Redacted is strong enough without the images of dead soldiers and Iraqi women and children. I didn’t, to be honest, even look at them. But if De Palma feels the need to get in our faces, good good good for him. Someone should. The Bush administration has made it illegal to photograph the coffins of American soldiers; the thinking is, out of sight, out of mind. In my last post, I wrote about the documentaries Lake of Fire and Unborn in the USA, in which anti-abortion protesters use photos of aborted fetuses to break down people’s defenses. There is no reason why an artist who is furious about this catastrophic war should not avail himself of the same tools. It will make a difference.