Film Review: Standard Operating Procedure (2013)

   Standard Operating Procedure, directed by Asif Kapadia, is one of two films concerning the horrors of Guantanamo Bay which share the same title.

   Whilst Errol Morris' 2008 documentary exists as a cerebral and philosophical challenge to photographic evidence, and the follies of much of what we consider to be valid or indisputable, the 2013 short approaches the subject on a much more personal, terrifying and shocking level.

   Kapadia's four minute film features Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) as the subject upon whom Guantanamo Bay's "Standard Operating Procedure" for force-feeding is practiced upon. After a brief and confident introduction, Bey is strapped to a chair ready to be treated with the same routines applied to the inmates at America's most notorious prison.

   Kapadia makes certain that we pay close attention for what is about to unfold, shooting the entire sequence against spotless white walls. The sterile backgrounds allow us no place to escape, no aesthetic distraction from the medieval cruelty displayed in front of us. All there is to focus upon are the horrific scientific implements forced on, in and around Bey and, in complete contrast to the cold machinery, the pained human visage of a soul caught in unspeakable pain. Simpering, wounded howls escape from Yasiin's mouth and the semi-swagger displayed moments before are replaced with anguished tears of a man who could take no more.

   A viscerally disturbing short film, torture is presented to us on an entirely unambiguous level - it is no longer an abstract notion, nor something a nation's PR division can hide behind flowery language, but a barbaric reality. That Bey only lasted mere seconds in a procedure which takes up to two hours and is imposed upon its prisoners twice daily, makes the clinical rigmarole appear even more inhumane. A powerful and disturbing short.

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