Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Road to Guantanamo

Prisoners await transfer to Guantanamo Bay. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

This is a very personal story – the story of four pretty ordinary, young Englishmen (of Pakistani background, aged between 19 and 23) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It puts faces, personalities and stories to the so-called “evil-doers”, the “really bad guys”, as George W. Bush likes to childishly describe them. In doing so, it exposes the absolutely corrupt lies that we have been fed by our leaders.

The four arrived in Pakistan for a wedding, not long after after the events of September 11, 2001. During their visit, they crossed the porous border with Afghanistan. Perhaps it was curiosity, or adventurism (they claim they were invited to perform some acts of charity, though the film doesn’t fully explain). Whatever their reasons, the film is ultimately about the inhumanity and injustice that has been meted out while in the custody of US forces.

The narrative takes the form of talking heads. Three of the young men (one is missing, presumed dead) speak intermittently as their experiences are re-enacted by non-professional actors in a documentary-like format, based on the accounts of the three. The realism of these segments is gripping, interspersed with Al Jazeera video footage from the time.

Trapped in Konduz under attack by US forces, the three men and other residents scramble onto a truck shared with Taliban fighters evacuating from the town. When the truck is intercepted by the Northern Alliance, the occupants are all taken into custody . Thus begins the arduous road to Guantanamo.

In the end, this story is not just about four young men. It is about Mamdouh Habib, David Hicks and a multitude of innocents who were in the wrong place at the wrong time (it could be about you and me). Those without western governments to support them still languish under harsh conditions. It is a travesty that the Australian government is the only western government that continues to abandon its responsibilities to its citizens. As the film depicts, contrary to the rule of law, there is a presumption of guilt.

For me, the constant inhumane interrogations, solitary confinements and beatings were reminiscent of the 1692 Salem trials depicted in Arthur Miller’s parable The Crucible, or the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings (which inspired Miller’s work) so artfully and powerfully depicted in George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. Ironically, they depict the very type of pernicious activities that the US government was claiming to be saving the world from.

In the context of current world events, this is an important film. I suspect that it will mostly preach to the converted, but hopefully it will find a wider audience. I found it compelling.

: Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross Rating: MA Duration: 95 min Genre: drama/documentary Language: English, Urdu Country: UK Release: 16/11/06, limited Viewed: 1/11/06, Cinema Nova Dist: Palace Films Prod Co: FilmFour, Revolution Films Prod: Andrew Eaton, Melissa Parmenter, Shahryar Shahbazzadeh Scr: not available Sound Des: Joakim Sundström Phot: Marcel Zyskind Ed: Paul Wrightson Prod Des: Mark Digby Mus: Harry Escott, Molly Nyman Cast: Riz Ahmed, Farhad Harun, Waqar Siddiqui, Arfan Usman

Official website IMDB

1 comment:

Paul Martin said...

For my own reference at least, there's a list of links relevant to The Road to Guantanamo at Michael Walford's Kinoeye.