Adam Curtis has once more made a documentary which can be – without deliberating – proclaimed a masterpiece. Commissioned by BBC it has only been available online and has not been broadcast on TV. I have read several comments and columns saying that British national television’s as well as all other televisions’ refusal to broadcast the great piece of documentary work is a clear case of censorship, a plot of power structures to conceal the criticism of a acclaimed director and respected socio-political commentator. When you see the two-hour long film these theories prove to be very plausible. Actually, most probable. The documentary is immensely critical and revealing, intelligent and complex, but at the same time clear and straight to the point, though it requires some prior knowledge of 20th century history. It analyses links and bonds between the big super-powers of the cold war era and resource-rich, strategic countries of the so called second and third world.
The documentary is set in Afghanistan in order to profoundly investigate, reveal and discuss the background of ongoing bloody conflict that has been taking place in the past forty years. It tells the audience how the tight economic and political bonds between US and Saudi Arabia influenced the developments in Afghanistan which has become a polygon for radicalism, conflict and arm race. However, the main floor was reserved for US that has by that time perfected their ultimate weapon: secret operations. The US, and in a somewhat lesser extent Soviet Union, slowly but persistently destroyed the country and plunged it to decades-long dark age. And the dark age is persistently still there in 2015. Curtis thus points finger directly to the governments and corporations who throughout the 20th century orchestrated the conflicts and consequently the decades-long era of instability outside the western world. And these governments and capital power structures are still reigning nowadays. And they don’t want this harsh truth to be spread between undemanding and (more and more) dissatisfied masses of people. The film is not dangerous as an artwork but it would become deadly if broadcast in prime time mainstream media. BBC or not, its website has much shorter range than its TV programme. (The world has not change that much after all).
However, from the artistic point of view, the fact the documentary was not made for TV programme is rather positive. There are no limitations regarding the length and “watchability” (that is the expression that usually stands for “underestimating TV audience”). The film therefore includes excellently edited footages taken from numerous sources, often without any comments. Curtis lets images speak for themselves and then subtly returns with his voice to back the entire context. Moreover, the colours and the framing are just brilliant. What we have here is a great hybrid form of artistic and, at the same time, utterly political documentary that does not try to hide its ideological agenda as Curtis once more stands up to reveal disclosed and hidden stories of West’s infamous violent past.
Here is full-length documentary Bitter Lake by Adam Curtis:
© Miha Colner, 11 February 2015