"I have just got my hands on something wonderful and precious. It is five computer drives containing the unedited rushes of everything shot by the BBC in Afghanistan over the last thirty years
So writes Adam Curtis
on his blog. Curtis is a documentary filmmaker who also works for BBC Current Affairs, and recently obtained access to this material from Phil Goodwin, a cameraman for BBC.
The material is amazing, astounding. Watch more than two, ten, thirty seconds at a time and you'll understand: most of us not involved with the Middle East or with war have been trained to watch this material with quick cuts, headline graphics, a newscaster's voiceover
. Without these trappings of the conventions of broadcast journalism, you get an alternate viewpoint, a sense of really-being-there.
The footage of Afghanistan isn't just a shot of a cannon firing cutting to a shot of Kabul, but includes six slow minutes of government troops, poring over a manual, trying to figure out how to work a gun
. Or, the footage at the beauty spa, for example, could be a typical 'zany' piece
about the life of soldiers, full of conveniently 'absurd' imagery. Without any cuts, however, you get somewhat of a sense that this is just one part of a day in the life of a soldier, something on the level of going to the bathroom, the vending machine, the rec-room with the ping-pong table. The spa with a manicure
Curtis: "It is just stuff recorded. It doesn't make any sense. But it doesn't make any less sense than the way Afghanistan is reported by newspapers and television."