Doug Liman, ACLU, PEN American Center Ask Public to Submit Videos for Film Based on Torture Documents

February 16, 2012 12:00 am

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“Reckoning With Torture” Will Combine Submitted Clips with Filmed Stage Performances by Top Actors, Writers and Former Military Officers

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NEW YORK – Acclaimed director Doug Liman today invited people from around the country to help make his next film, an innovative project called Reckoning With Torture: Memos and Testimonies From the “War On Terror.” The movie will combine video clips submitted by the public with filmed stage performances featuring actors like Robert Redford, Dianne Wiest and America Ferrera, as well as writers, former interrogators and military officers.

The product of a partnership between Liman, the American Civil Liberties Union, and PEN American Center, the film is built around a script constructed from declassified government documents detailing the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The visceral sequence of readings reveals both the human cost of America’s post-9/11 torture program and the heroic struggle of many soldiers and intelligence officers to stop the abuse. You can watch a short video of past performance highlights and an introductory pitch from Liman here:

Liman, whose credits include The Bourne Identity, Fair Game, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, is asking Americans to join him in filming the Reckoning script. Today he unveiled the film’s website,, where users can follow simple instructions to shoot and upload footage of themselves, their families, and friends delivering the readings.

“I signed on to the Reckoning project because I’m convinced that the struggle for accountability for torture is one of the major moral tests of our lifetimes,” Liman said. “I was amazed by the power of the material to persuade and move live audiences. I was hoping that the popularity and success of my feature films would bring new audiences to the Reckoning experience, and I was excited to explore the ways in which the process of making a film could itself become an educational and organizing tool. I can’t wait to see where people take this.”

Liman has already filmed live Reckoning With Torture performances at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and Lincoln Center in New York. In addition to the actors, performers at those events included authors Annie Proulx and Russell Banks, documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, former military interrogator Matthew Alexander, former CIA officer Jack Rice and former Guantánamo Chief Prosecutor Lt. Col. Morris Davis. Another live performance is planned for one of the U.S. Military Service Academies later this year.

On, Liman explains the submission process in a short introductory video. Visitors can view clips of the film’s 11 scenes and choose one to film, follow quick tips and instructions for filming, and upload their footage to Liman’s production team. The clips will be posted on the Reckoning website and YouTube, where audiences around the world can follow the film in progress.

This fall, Liman will select the best submissions and intercut them with footage from the staged performances to create a feature-length movie that stars Americans from all walks of life standing alongside prominent cultural figures to read the record of this country’s torture program.

For the ACLU, Reckoning With Torture forms a crucial part of its ongoing efforts to build momentum for accountability for these human rights violations. “We are gratified that Doug Liman and so many extraordinary artists have joined this effort, and we’re excited to open up this project to the broader public,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. “Our government’s failure to confront the legacy of torture compromises America’s ability to advocate for human rights in other countries and erodes the rule of law here at home. We hope the Reckoning film will help convey how crucial it is that we confront this legacy rather than ignore it.”

For PEN American Center, the project reflects the role that writers, cultural figures and the public at large have played around the world in countries that are emerging from periods of human rights abuse. “Confronting a legacy of torture above all means breaking the silence and declaring to one another simply and clearly what happened,” said Larry Siems, director of PEN’s Freedom to Write and International Programs. “This wonderful collaborative film project gives everyone a way to be part of this essential, restorative process.”
Reckoning With Torture has received development and production grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Fritt Ord Foundation and the Sundance Institute.

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