Camp X-Ray (2014)
Directed by Peter Sattler • Written by Peter Sattler
With Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi
Previously known for his work as a graphic artist, Camp X-Ray is the low-budget directorial debut of Peter Sattler. Kristen Stewart stars as an inexperienced soldier assigned to Guantanamo Bay, guarding “detainees” not from potential escape, but from suicide.
In alignment with the grim setting, Sattler adopts a washed out tone represented by the limited palette of the environment; a breeze-block grey of sparse interiors and overbearing military claustrophobia. The film immediately seizes our attention, establishing the political climate with a lingering shot of the burning North Tower of the World Trade Center. Straight away, we know exactly where we are.
Perhaps most surprising/rewarding about Camp X-Ray, is that aside from that one opening shot, the politically charged setting is used to demonstrate the commonality of human life, irrespective of borders, religion or race. The heart of this intimate story is told via the cautious relationship between Cole (Stewart) and Ali (Peyman Moaadi) – the latter a prisoner in camp. Both performances transition through gears; Stewart’s one of bottled emotion and swelling guilt, Moaadi’s reflecting the tortured strain of incarceration and persecution.
Gender inequality in the army is addressed, as Stewart is bullied and sexually coerced by her immediate superior, highlighting failures between ranks – the war mentality seemingly giving free licence to commit widespread abuse in the name of representing flag and country…even toward those supposedly on your side. Through its low-key lens, Camp X-Ray is a hopeful, thought-provoking film, portraying great sadness versus pin-pricks of light.