Saturday, April 07, 2007

British TV pulls Iraq abuse drama

Using the unfolding "Iran situation" of the captive British sailors as an excuse, British TV Channel 4 canceled its April 5 airing of the powerful drama "Mark of Cain" about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by British soldiers. "The Mark of Cain" is a complex portrait of the British military presence in southern Iraq. The story involves three soldiers accused of abusing detainees after suffering losses in an ambush. The soldiers are found out when an angry ex-girlfriend denounces them after seeing trophy photos of the abuse. The soldiers are then put on trial. According to the film's press release:
THE MARK OF CAIN is inspired by real life events Iraq. The now notorious pictures and footage that emerged from the prisons of Iraq, showed British soldiers abusing and humiliating prisoners of war. The revelations rocked the army, an institution that prides itself on ‘fair play.’ It placed the role of the British army in Iraq in danger; appearing as the occupiers they had long sought not to be. It left the position of the British army exposed, leaving them vulnerable to further reprisals. Why did the soldiers behave in this way?

Teamed with the reported lack of essential supplies, it led people to question whether the British army was emotionally and physically equipped for such military action, or is this the way soldiers will be led to behave under such extreme pressure?

So controversial is THE MARK OF CAIN, that the release was postponed until the current trial of the British soldiers is concluded.
The film won the Movies that Matter at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. According to the Festival's site:
“It’s a fictional story, but it was triggered off by a small newspaper story [screen writer] Marchant saw about a young soldier who’d taken his camera to develop at a high street store in 2003,” director Marc Munden says. “The guy processing the film immediately phoned the police because the photos were of prisoners being humiliated. The soldier was totally naïve; he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. So Tony started interviewing returning soldiers and their families. It’s completely fictional, but all the elements that occur in the film have taken place in real life.”

The result is a fierce, angry film that probes the events leading up to the British soldiers’ torture of their terrorist ‘suspects’ (arrested on the flimsiest of evidence following an ambush on the squad that leaves two British soldiers dead), and exposes the way senior officers turned a blind eye to the abuse. “He’s a very committed, political writer – there’s not that many like that any more,” Munden says of Marchant. Asked what he looks for in a screenwriter, Munden says: “You’ve got to be completely in love with what they’re trying to say. But it’s really important that I can stamp some kind of authorship on the film.”
Channel Four claims that the airing of the film depicting abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers could have put the British prisoners in Iran at risk. The Channel has rescheduled the film's airing for May 17.

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