Saturday, November 18, 2006

Movie Review: The Road to Guantanamo

Those of us who live in Australia know about Guantanamo. One of our citizens, David Hicks, is imprisoned there and our government is doing nothing about the abuse of his human rights (the right to a fair trial, amongst others). He is not alone in his incarceration. Over the years, around 750 people have been held by the American government without charge on suspicion of being involved in terrorism. Of the 750 prisoners, only 10 have ever been charged with a crime and there has never been a conviction. Prisoners are tortured on the assumption that they are guilty in an attempt to get them to "confess" to their crimes. The Road to Guantanamo is the story of three English Muslims - Asif Iqbal, Ruhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul, and Monir Ali - who were arrested and imprisoned at Guantanamo because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This docudrama tells their story. Even if they had been guilty, and if what this movie shows about their treatment in Guantanamo is true (and there is no reason to disbelieve it given what we know from other sources), then what is going on there must be some of the worst abuses of human rights we have seen. Asif (Arfan Usman) travels to Pakistan to meet his future wife. When he gets there, he rings home and invites his friend, Ruhel (Farhad Harun) to join him to be his best man. He agrees and flies to Pakistan with two other friends, Shafiq (Riz Ahmed) and Monir (Waqar Siddiqui). Whilst walking around the streets they enter a mosque and hear a religious leader speaking of events in Afghanistan and calling for humanitarian aid. They decide to take a trip to Afghanistan to see for themselves what is happening there and to lend a hand. Through a series of coincidences and misunderstandings, three of them (Ali disappeared during a mass exodus of Konduz and has never been located since) are handed over to the US military and, ultimately, sent to Camp Delta, the "interrogation centre" in the US Army's base in Guantanamo, Cuba. The three men have become known as the Tipton Three. They were held for two years until they were finally released without charge or apology. What happens to the Tipton Three is very difficult to watch. They are tortured, abused, and humiliated in unimaginable ways in an attempt to get them to "confess". The drama is interspersed with brief interviews of the three men telling parts of their story. The cinematography is incredibly realistic -- deliberately designed to give us a sense of the events being filmed in real time. The performances of the non-professional actors is authentic -- they look so much like the real men that it is hard to tell the difference. How these three men survived their ordeal and remained sane is incredible. The way they were treated by the US soldiers is completely immoral. Ironically, outside the Guantanamo facility, there is a sign saying how the US wants to preserve freedom. The treatment of people at Guantanamo is absolutely contemptible and shameful. I was seething with anger when I left the cinema - the hypocrisy of a country which sanctions others for abusing human rights is, itself, blatantly and self-righteously ignoring them. The Road to Guantanamo does not prove or disprove the guilt or innocence of the Tipton Three, although it does assume they have done nothing wrong. The motivation behind their actions and decisions has been hotly debated. But that is not really the point of the movie. It is to describe their experience as they see it. It's a very tough 95 minutes, but it is an important and powerful film - absolutely essential to see to remind us of what evil can be perpetrated in the name of freedom. My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review 'A film that must be seen to understand the sad truths of our times. It's been made with a sensitivity and creativity that's come to exemplify Winterbottom's work.' - Ruthe Stein/San Francisco Chronicle Negative Review 'By inviting us to take on trust the Tipton Three's accounts of what they were doing in Afghanistan, Guantánamo falls into a familiar trap of agitprop filmmaking - turning the victim into a hero. The movie gives us no particular reason to believe that they were up to anything nefarious - or that they weren't.' - Ella Taylor/LA Weekly Related Links Content Warning Language and very disturbing violent content AU: MA US: R

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