Kennedy: Definitely. I'd say 95 percent of the executives I've worked with on documentaries over the years have been women. Granted, that's just my personal experience, but I think it's indicative.

CP: Since the government and the military continue to be dominated by men, the gender dynamics behind the scenes of the film seem to give it another layer of opposition. And they help make your interviews with the women who were complicit in the torture appear really complicated—as the situation undoubtedly was for them.

Kennedy: Janis Karpinsky, who was brigadier general in charge of prisons and took a good deal of blame for what happened at Abu Ghraib, feels she was scapegoated by people—by men—in higher positions. Did her being a woman contribute to that scapegoating? Probably so. There was a strongly sexual element to the torture at Abu Ghraib—the interrogators ordering [military police officer] Megan Ambuhl to stand and watch an Iraqi prisoner shower naked, things like that.

Worth a thousand words: 'Ghosts of Abu Ghraib'
Worth a thousand words: 'Ghosts of Abu Ghraib'

CP: Gender aside, do you think there's a sense in which your interview subjects—the military police and interrogators—are confessing to your camera?

Kennedy: I think of confession as being the first time that a person admits to something. All of [the subjects] had previously admitted to what they had done and had served time [in jail]. So I think what they're trying to do [in the film] is explain why they did it. And for me, that was the main motivation of the film: to try to communicate that explanation to an audience. I'm as guilty as the next person of judging these people for what they did. But hearing from them really changed things for me. As soon as I met [MP] Javal Davis, I felt immediately disarmed—just to see him as a human being despite his behavior, which seemed so inhuman.

CP: You hoped this feeling would translate to the audience?

Kennedy: Yes. And I think it does. You look at [Davis] and you say to yourself, Oh, yeah—this person has eyes that I can connect with, a face I can relate to. And then beyond that are the circumstances of the torture—that it was authorized verbally and in written form, in signed memos. It's important for people to acknowledge the chain of command—especially people in the military, because I think there are conditions in war that are conducive to torture, conditions that can be anticipated and therefore prevented through policy change. My feeling is that, as Americans, we're ignoring the signs, pushing them under the rug and making ourselves vulnerable to this kind of thing happening again.

CP: Based on your interviews and your research, do you have a sense that there's a future for the Geneva Convention in American war policy?

Kennedy: On paper, it looks quite good what the administration did recently with the Military Commissions Act: There's a commitment to not torturing people, to treating them with dignity and respect. But there's also a lot of smoke and mirrors. The military isn't allowed to torture, but they're allowed to use evidence obtained through torture. And then there are entirely different rules for the CIA. You ask, Well, what are those rules? And they say, We can't tell you what those are. You understand.

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