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In 2001, four Pakistani Britons, Ruhal Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul and another friend, Monir, travel to Pakistan for a wedding and in a urge of idealism, decide to see the situation of war torn Afganistan which is being bombed by the American forces in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Once there, with the loss of Monir in the wartime chaos, they are captured by Northern Alliance fighters. They are then handed them over the American forces who transport them to the prison camps at the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. What follows is three years of relentless imprisonment, interrogations and torture to make them submit to blatantly wrong confessions to being terrorists. In the midst of this abuse, the three struggle to keep their spirits up in that face of this grave injustice. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Two of the actors (Riz Ahmed and Farhad Harun) and two of the ex-detainees were detained temporary and interrogated at the airport by the British police when they returned from the Berlinale-festival where the movie got the Silver Bear. According to BBC-news Ahmed said he was asked if he intended to make any more political films. See more »
When one of the "detainees" is first brought into the interrogation tent, a guard accidentally lifts the man's shirt, revealing the wire of a remote microphone. See more »
[rapping to an American guard]
My name's Shafiq Rasul, and I'm from Tipton, I tell them I ain't Taliban, but they don't wanna listen. You won't believe I just came out here, for my mate's wedding, do you? I never thought my ass, would be heading for Cuba.
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Even if a third of what the Tipton Three alleged to have happened to them is true, that should outrage all Americans.
But since there seems to be this belief - perpetuated by Dubya and his cronies - that this administration is somehow doing all this to protect us Americans from the bad guys, there is no outrage that we torture prisoners, hold them without charges or access to counsel, deprive them of civil liberties, all in the name of security. What poppycock!
Michael Winterbottom's film does not answer an important question - exactly what kind of "help" were these three chaps going to provide in Afghanistan? However, what happened to them should embarrass all of us.
Our foreign policy is so dumb - we prohibit trade with and travel to Cuba because it's a communist nation, but have no qualms about trading with or allowing travel to China and Vietnam - and our leaders so hypocritical.
Dubya claims to have freed Iraq from a brutal dictator (who, incidentally, was someone we supported not too long ago, when Dubya's dad was veep, to be exact, and Rummy was shaking hands with Saddam), and yet the people running Iraq today seem no better. They're still torturing people, violent militias carry out retribution killings, and our leaders stick their heads in the sand and say everything's alright.
"The Road to Guantanamo" is shot as a pseudo-documentary. The Tipton Three are portrayed as likable lugs who got caught up in something they never intended. There's an element of black comedy to all this - they keep their senses of humor as they recount the horrible, distasteful and despicable manner in which they're treated.
That we would have had an American pretending to be British to try and coerce these three men doesn't surprise me in the least. After all, it turns out Dubya considered painting the UN logo on a plane to tempt Saddam to shoot it down so we could have a reason to wage war. (Gulf of Tonkin, anyone?)
This is an incredibly difficult, at times harrowing, film to watch. There are those of us who still, foolishly perhaps, believe in the American ideal. A nation that stands for human rights and decent treatment of prisoners. But, I know, reality is far different. We have a Supreme Court justice who scoffs at giving Gitmo prisoners their day in court and a government that believes the Geneva Conventions are antiquated.
We apparently want to show the world we're the beacon of freedom and treat everyone - including alleged criminals - with certain rights, such as due process. And that's what we're trying to instill in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, in practice, we do exactly the opposite.
"The Road to Guantanmo" works because Winterbottom never lets go, never eases up to allow us to feel comfortable. Watching what happens to the Tipton Three is awfully disquieting. It is shameful that we behave like this. What's more worrisome is there seems to be such a lack of outrage among Americans that we're doing this. This administration (and its blowhard allies) have done such a wonderful job convincing Americans that speaking out against their policies is tantamount to being unpatriotic.
I realize many will reject Winterbottom's film because it doesn't cast the United States in all honorable light. It shows how vicious, uncaring and brutal we are, even though our leaders continue to deny everything.
I can only hope that years from now, we will be thoroughly ashamed of how our government treated people in the war on terror, just as we now feel shame for how we treated Japanese-Americans during WWII.
"The Road to Guantanamo" is an important film. I hope now that it has an American distributor, more people will be exposed to it. I am sure the right-wing demagogues will attack it as anti-American and tell us that seeing it would be unpatriotic. (Then again, I don't need OxyContin to function daily.)
The MPAA banned the initial poster for this film because it depicted a man with his wrists tied and a burlap sack over his head and that apparently is too much for our children to see. It's quite alright expose kids to horror-movie posters, but letting them see depictions of some of the despicable acts of our government is bad?
Because of AMPAS' dumb rules, I am certain this film won't be eligible for any Oscars. (It already has been shown on TV in the UK and is available on DVD there.) But "The Road to Guantanamo" must be seen by as many Americans as possible. You watch it and wonder, where has all our decency gone?
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