The Aesthetics of the Procedural in Post-9/11 Cinema

My new article “The Aesthetics of the Procedural in Post-9/11 Cinema” will be available in the next issue of Cinema Journal 55.3 (2016). Section “In Focus: Post 9/11 Media Studies.” Ed. Anna Froula. University of Texas Press.

Article presented at the War on Terror Cinema Session. Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference. March 30-April 3, 2016. Atlanta, Georgia. Presiding: Shakti Jaising.


The convergence of the 9/11 attacks with the rapid technological changes of the new millennium (when the indexicality of the image is challenged by the wide diffusion of digital technology) created a withering of the epistemological certainties regarding history and photography-based media. In addition, the Iraq war generated a series of controversies over privacy and surveillance, rendition, civil rights and prisoner abuses. These events, depicted and sensationalized by all types of mass communication, influenced Hollywood cinema whose production suddenly appeared obsolete, forcing it to adapt with new aesthetic and narrative strategies. US directors engage in the representation of the War on Terror by embracing the aesthetic of the ultra-professional procedural subgenre in films such as Rendition (Gavin Hood, 2007), In the Vally of Elah (Paul Haggis, 2007), Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, 2008), The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008), Fair Game (Doug Liman, 2010), Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2013) and American Sniper (Clint Eastwood, 2014), among others. This study evidences some common features through which this heterogeneous group of works portrayed the sociopolitical issues mentioned above. Post-9/11 cinema emphasizes how the liberal capitalist system elevates the process itself to a dominant value independent of any particular goal and of any positive sociopolitical value or ideal of justice, but its open narrative possesses a unique capacity to undermine the proceduralist ideology in which the movies were conceived by completely immersing us in its extreme consequences.


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