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06/14/2003 Archived Entry: ""Innocents Betrayed": A bonfire of horrors"

I JUST MADE A BONFIRE OF HORRORS. Thousands of photocopies of historic photos ... into the fire they went. Images of every possible cruelty human beings can inflict upon others. Starved corpses, their empty eye sockets crawling with flies. Charred hands curled into macabre fists. Skulls like cracked eggs. The thousand-yard stare of the dying. The upper half of a body with no bottom, the bottom half with no top. Women wailing over mass graves. And -- the most horribly memorable long after the flames devoured it -- a whole series of photos of a man literally being taken to pieces, alive, conscious, and watching as his tormenters slice segments of his naked body away.

For the last year these photos (and cassettes of equally grim film footage) have been my life. This is the raw material of "Innocents Betrayed," JPFO's landmark video documentary demonstrating that when governments wish to commit mass slaughter, they first disarm their victims. As script writer on the project, I didn't merely write the words (in consultation with Aaron Zelman and Richard W. Stevens). It was also my job to choose the final images from the thousands of photos and dozens of reels of film footage submitted to us. Thus these thousands of copies of photographs, paintings, and documentary film footage.

I've seldom every felt so honored to work on a project and so grateful to have been chosen. And I've never, ever been so depressed -- so downright horrified -- by a project. "Innocents Betrayed" is going to be outstanding. Every time I see a rough cut of a new segment, I'm astonished. Thinking I never want to view another second of those horrors, I'm moved anew by what Aaron has wrought. But ... well, once you've seen "Innocents" you may never see the world the same way again.

Please don't let me give you the impression that "Innocents" will be a horror fest for viewers. It won't be. It's a powerful, moving account in which you see horrors as a consequence of a bigger reality. But living with it every day for the last year, and knowing those unthinkable images were piling up higher and higher in what is meant to be my little house of peace ... well, that has been unbearable at times.

"Innocents Betrayed" is almost done now. Just a few more minutes of footage to produce. And I am done now. Every segment of the script, right down to the closing credits, has been written, reviewed, re-written, and submitted to the production company, along with its hundreds of images. I've got just one job left and that will be a pleasure -- to sit in on the recording of the voiceover with the wonderful, talented, skilled pro who'll give the final polish to our production. (Up to now we've been cutting to a "scratch track," a non-professional narration that gives the editor a pattern to follow but still gives us the flexibility to keep on polishing the script right to the end.)

And so, the bonfire -- consigning a two-foot-tall monument to human cruelty and misplaced trust to fierce, cleansing flames. When I first carried the folders of photocopies out to the burn barrel, I thought I was merely doing something practical -- throwing the images away without taking up space in the trash can. But as the flames roared out and one after another the images curled up and withered away and out of my life, out of my house, out of my consciousness, into the pure blue spring sky, I felt my own spirit rising with the heat above the fire. My shoulders, which have been tight for months, suddenly didn't hurt any more. The horrors are still real and in the world and a genuine danger to us all. But in some absolutely primitive, visceral way, I felt as if they had also risen into the air and dissipated like the spirit of Sauron after the One Ring went tumbling into the fiery crack on Mt. Doom.

Posted by Claire @ 09:10 PM CST

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