Update: A Sad Sight: Iraq At Sundance

UPDATE: GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB had an exciting year with its nominations for three Emmys including: Outstanding Directing, Picture Editing, and Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming, and winning the Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Special. “Not only does the film thoroughly and skillfully explain the context in which something as heinous as Abu Ghraib could happen, it attempts to understand the psychology of those involved.” – James Greenberg (Hollywood Reporter)

UPDATE: NO END IN SIGHT has been released in select theatres with great reviews. “Enraging. Apocolyptic. Masterful.” – Rob Nelson (Village Voice)



Park City, Jan. 25. While the President’s plans for a troop surge is debated in the halls of Congress, filmmakers, critics, and industry people are discussing several of the Iraq films here at Sundance. Rory Kennedy’s GHOSTS OF ABU GHARIB [festival.sundance.org] provides compelling evidence that the traumatic incident that the Pentagon kept trying to brush under the rug as an unfortunate accident was in fact an inevitable consequence of our war plans. An even more commanding indictment of our current war machine is found in Charles Ferguson’s NO END IN SIGHT [festival.sundance.org]. On Tuesday night, moments before President Bush delivered his “State of the Union” address, a distinguished panel of military, diplomatic and film professionals gathered in Park City to discuss the issues raised by the film.


Mixing interviews with high-level military personal along with a fastidious review of the war’s chronology, Ferguson provides a riveting — and all the more heartbreaking because it is so concise — account of the war. In Greencine Daily, David Darcy [daily.greencine.com] summarizes the panel he moderated on this film. Joining him here in Sundance were the director Charles Ferguson, the film’s executive producer Alex Gibney [www.imdb.com], former Marine officer Seth Moulton [www.nytimes.com], former ambassador Barbara Bodine [en.wikipedia.org], and Iraqi journalist Omar Fekeiki [www.pelicanfile.com]. By video remote, former general and director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance [www.sourcewatch.org] Jay Garner [en.wikipedia.org] and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson [en.wikipedia.org], the former Chief of Staff for Colin Powell, joined in the discussion.

The sobering and respectful way that the panelists come together to dissect the film and its issues is both heartrending and inspiring. Heartrending in so far as the tragedy and chaos in Iraq is nearly unimaginable; inspiring becuase the panel demonstrates the power a documentary can have to bring a concerned community together. Cinematical’s Kim Voynar [www.cinematical.com] provides video coverage of the event.

The film has provoked strong feelings for critics who have seen it. Filmmaker Magazine’s Scott Macaulay [www.filmmakermagazine.com] finds the film “essential.” And Jason Silverman [blog.wired.com] in Wired News calls it “devasting.”

Peter Bowen

Senior Editor, FIlmmaker Magazine