Torture in the Cinema

Here’s an alert to all cinema-goers in the UK, starting in May: that mineral water ad you think you are seeing prior to the theater’s main attraction might turn out to be something quite different. The on-line Frankfurter Rundschau has the details (Amnesty International Shows Torture in the Cinema): from 9 May Amnesty International UK will be paying to have a 90-second block played in British cinemas that provides a good up-close look at what waterboarding is all about. As FR reports, for a brief while the images there on screen are quite disturbing. But that is on purpose: as Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen states, “The film shows what the American intelligence services would gladly keep secret – the gruesome sight of an almost-drowned human being.”

The point is obviously to put some graphic reality behind a phenomenon that up to now has been a mere abstraction, and thus easy to rationalize or even forget about. But this film-short is part of Amnesty International’s Unsubscribe-me campaign: “Unite against human rights abuse in the ‘war on terror’.” (Go ahead, it’s worth clicking-through to – I promise you won’t be surprise there by any gruesome movies suddenly playing out before your eyes.) The idea is to sign up there to “unsubscribe” from the shocking abuses being perpetrated by government officials in our name, especially in the case of American citizens.

And the initial set-up of the film that leads unsuspecting watchers to assume that it’s merely just another mineral water or vodka advertisement on its way – sorry for the spoiler! – is also deliberate. It is high time, Amnesty International is saying, to finally jolt the wider public out of its here-and-now complacency while such shocking things are being allowed to go on.

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