Uncovered: The War in Iraq is an incredibly effective documentary that takes on the Bush administration and their conspiracy to invade Iraq. The documentary takes an essay like structure, focusing primarily on refutation. And refute it does each and almost every instance of evidence that the Bush administration presented to the public. Whilst this style of film may become somewhat boring – though no less pertinent in its gradual revealing of the truth – the film plays with an intriguing idea, that of the media’s use of images and language to effectively prime, control and police dominant perception of the war in Iraq within the public consciousness.
What characterises Bush administration’s campaign for war is a grand-scale calculation of half-truths and wilful omissions culminating in fear-mongering on a collective, national level. Primarily the U.S. state achieved this through the manipulation of language and images. Throughout the many arguments Uncovered makes we are routinely faced with the production of ‘truths’ that tap into a form of nuclear fear residual in the American collective consciousness. Language is omitted, struck-through in official documents whilst satellite images are re-contextualised and doctored to prove paper-thin arguments.
If this is the violation of the U.S. state then the film makes an effort to counteract this in its formal qualities. Instead of doctored dog-whistles and fear-mongering, the film’s refutational structure partakes a calm, collected, moment-to-moment analysis of key details, taking time to situate and aid understanding within the spectator. The outcome is a mode of spectatorship that encourages the elongation of time, the cultivation of patience and most importantly an active component of reflection upon the material presented. This works in opposition to the fear mongering tactics of the U.S. state, a mode of address that forces the recipient into ill-judged, hasty conclusions drawn not from reflection and time but from conditioned response.
This is to say that time, patience and reflection within the spectator becomes a key basis to refute the power relations and structures that the state uses to produce public hysteria necessary for going to war. This differing mode of spectatorship may hold potential to disrupt the affect of state media and manipulation.
One may even critique the film’s ending using the form of spectatorship it encourages; the dubious nationalism, of American excellence, retains a moderate form of U.S. imperialism within its politics. If fervent nationalism is part of the ideology that caused the war in Iraq then maybe nationalism, even in moderate form, is a recipe for disaster once more.
By Cole Diment
Uncovered: The War on Iraq (dir. Robert Greenwald) is screening at 16.40 in the Vintage Mobile Cinema. We hope to see you there!