The Interrogation, written by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Lilly Thomassian, debuted January 9 at the monthly meeting of the Alameda Writers Group.
The short subject film deals with the interrogation of an Iraqi woman by an American soldier, but the reason for the interrogation is left vague. The focus of this study is not about politics or military strategy, but the power struggle between two individuals. The film was inspired by Thomassian’s play of the same name, which explored the Iranian revolution.
The film opens with the woman playing cello before an audience – we later find out that she plays for the national symphony. The cinematography reveals her to be on a stage before many people, but at the same time it is intimate and sensuous, bringing you together with the artist and her instrument.
The film then cuts to a subjective camera – you are with the woman looking out through a blindfold. When the blindfold comes off, we discover that she has been beaten and tied to a chair.
The interrogation that follows was skillfully handled by director Ryan Reels. Reels, who has been an assistant and unit director on several projects over the past few years, had to rely on the interplay between the two actors to create the drama. We see one room, a table and two chairs – no explosions or gunfights; just a contest between wills of the characters.
When the film ended, the audience – a tough crowd of writers and film makers – was silent for a couple of seconds, overwhelmed by the emotional impact; then came the standing ovation.
Producer Spencer Ballou, who made the film with support from the Alameda Writers Group, said that he would be seeking to enter the film into festivals around the country. Director Reels indicated that the editing needed a polish, but to me it already looked impressive in its current state.
One caveat – if you have been involved with the America military, as I was for thirty years, you may find the depiction of the American soldier both offensive and inaccurate. This should not take anything away, however, from what is a powerful and stunning bit of cinema. If you get the chance, see it.