There can’t be too many documentaries about Abu Ghraib, still ignored in certain ostrich-like circles. This tougher follow-up to the directors’ surreal Gunner Palace is, like last year’s The Road to Guantnamo, a wrong-man story. Speaking in a sober hush, the film’s sympathetic subject, English-speaking Arab journalist Yunis Abbas, relates a nightmarish tale: how he and his brothers, on faulty intelligence, were rounded up at a 2003 Baghdad wedding party (apparently, they were to assassinate the British leader), shipped off to the notorious prison and interrogated for nine months, after which they were released with an officer’s “I’m sorry.” Clearly, that’s not enough.
The doc’s title plays off Kubrick’s pitch-black satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Following suit, The Prisoner is tricked up with an overabundance of comic flourishes: retroish cartoon panels of Uday Hussein and torture cell blocks, thought balloons floating over live talking heads, amplified sound effects. The choice is a bold one, occasionally glib and almost derailing the seriousness of the material. Already, the Kafkaesque humor is chokingly dark: We see official army manuals, indicating detainees with yellow happy faces. Are any more drawings even necessary after that? (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.) — Joshua Rothkopf