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with the local village elders. He attempts to “win hearts and minds” by offering all manner of riches, healthcare and power in exchange for their cooperation. The film captures moments of pure horror as colleagues are gunned down on a raid deep in Taliban territory. On another occasion morale in the camp hits rock bottom when the troops receive news of nine deaths in a sister company. There’s no climactic build-up, music or edit cut to create a safe distance. The intention of the documentary makers is to “capture the experience of combat, boredom and fear through the eyes of the soldiers themselves. Their lives were our lives: we did not sit down with their families; we did not interview Afghans; we did not explore geopolitical debates.” The Afghan people in the documentary are invisible or collateral. Except for interviews with soldiers after demobilisation, there is no narrative voice. The directors do not intend to convey an anti-war message, but the realities exposed through their narrow objectivity are condemning nonetheless. On one of their raids to flush out the Taliban, the soldiers call in an air strike. The men then explore the aftermath. There’s no gun stash to be found, only rubble, broken bodies and the shock of the survivors. One explains, as calmly as he can, that there are five dead—“but show me which of them is the Taliban”. On reflection the captain responsible wrestles with his conscience, before finally absolving himself: the dead may not have pulled the trigger, but they were connected to those who did. Forty two Americans died and hundreds were wounded between 2006 and 2009 in the valley. In April 2010 US forces withdrew. There’s not much here to warm the heart, but as war reporting goes it doesn’t get any more real and powerful. Kevin Best

Enemies of the People Directors Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath Out now

Police, Adjective probes the morality of drug criminalisation

Police, Adjective Director Corneliu Porumboiu Out now

The trailer to Police, Adjective is full of dialogue and action. It centres itself on the problem of teenage hashish smoking in Romania and is accompanied by an upbeat tune. Much of this seems in direct contrast to the film itself, which is powerful in its bleakness, realism and silence. There is nothing epic here— the people are ordinary and the film spans just three days. The only big things in the film are the structures and systems within which the characters live and with which they struggle. An incredibly moving piece of art is created out of what is unflinchingly everyday. Drugs, and the question of legalisation or criminalisation, are a central part of the story. The protagonist, Cristi, is a police officer tailing a boy whose friend and fellow hashish smoker, Alex, has squealed on him as a supplier. Cristi insists that he has nothing on the boy, Victor, after tailing him for eight days, and expresses his conviction that they are going to ruin Victor’s life for nothing. This personal responsibility, and subsequent sense that to allow his superiors to “get him” would be a betrayal, puts Cristi in

opposition with his own position as an officer and with his boss. “You no longer know what you are,” his boss fumes. We suspect this is true. Cristi struggles to come to terms with his role as a tool of someone else’s justice as, alone with his thoughts, he trails the teenagers round Brasov. These long stretches of silence, coupled with long-distance shots of Cristi moving around the city, are agonising and essential. Both viewer and protagonist are reduced to little more than CCTV cameras. The absence of Cristi’s vocalised thoughts becomes a black hole that draws you in and forces you to confront his problem as your own. The tension between an individual and their society, the questions and conflicts that arise from societal organisation and relations between people both in word and in deed, are brought to a head in the inevitable confrontation between Cristi and his boss. The intuitive morality Cristi wants to adhere to is individualistic and to his superior represents the anarchy the police exist to suppress. The alternative is the status quo of society in which Cristi is an exile in his own land, speaking a language and living by laws that do not belong to him, which can be changed, or not, without his approval or permission. Claudia Neville Cadwallader

In July this year Kaing Guek Eav, best known as Comrade Duch under the Khmer Rouge regime, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for overseeing the systematic torture and murder of thousands of people at the S-21 detention centre. With time already served, Duch could be released in 19 years—however, he is appealing his sentence. Comrade Duch’s trial was the first, with other leaders of the Khmer Rouge still awaiting trial. Thet Sambath, an Englishspeaking Cambodian reporter, has spent most weekends of his adult life travelling into the country, slowly gaining Nuon Chea’s trust, and the trust of others who carried out the killings. Why? As Sambath’s incredibly poignant Englishlanguage narration explains, “I think only the killers can tell us the truth...why they killed the people and who ordered them to kill.” In pursuing this truth, Sambath and Rob Lemkin, the British director, have captured the deeply saddening and profoundly insightful tale of Sambath’s journey to explore the heart of the killing fields of the 1970s. With a persistent rather than badgering interview technique, Sambath manages to extract matter of fact confessions of murder, often in some detail—including accounts of cannibalism. Some of the uneducated farmers who made up the Khmer Rouge’s death squads would sometimes kill 20 to 30 people a day—and the fact that the bodies of those deemed not Communist enough to live are often buried under the houses and nearby roads of the survivors is truly chilling. Not quite as chilling, however, as the dramatisation of a killing, using Sambath himself as the victim: “You hold them like this so they do not scream… After I slit so

32 | Socialist Review | OCTOBER 2010

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Directors Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath Out now Director Corneliu Porumboiu Out now Police, Adjective probes the morality of drug criminalisat...

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