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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?
The film provides an excellent portrayal of the horrors that the US and
the UK have gone to in the pursuit of the War on Terror, and also a
damning indictment of the workings of the minds that are behind this
"War". I feel that the film may well deserve the acclaim it gets purely
on the basis of the bravery that it cast and direction have shown in
making it- their freedoms and possibly their careers may be impinged
upon as a result.
This fact was well illustrated in the recent incident that I feel brings the reality of Guantanamo and the War on Terror closer to home. It was documented that the cast, returning to Luton having picked up the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, were taken aside and questioned by police. In a haunting piece of irony, the mini-detention at Luton airport served as a mirror of Guantanamo. The actors were racially insulted (a policewoman telling one actor-"I'll get my male colleague to handle you- you Muslims don't like dealing with women do you?"); physically provoked (a policeman wrestling one of the actor's phones out of his hand to inspect his phone book); denied any legal recourse (they were not allowed to call their lawyers); insulted (one of the actors was called a "f****r" by a police officer); and generally treated by the supposed arbiters of justice in such a way befitting of people who know they are above the law and thus permit themselves to do what they like. Such occurrences are now commonplace in the life of the Tipton Three. Will it be the same for the actors who had the courage to play them?
The Tipton Three were there Britons of south Asian origin, mixed up in
petty crime. Sufficiently Paskistani in identity to visit that country
and feel reasonably at home, they were also sufficiently British to
imagine it would be a good idea to extend their trip to Afghanistan,
just to see what they would find. What they did find, of course, was
war, the of death a friend, and then, just when they might have thought
they were safe, torture and imprisonment at the hands of the Americans,
first in Afghanistan and then in Guantanamo Bay. Michael Winterbottom's
film is shot in many of the original locations, reconstructing their
story: the reconstruction is accompanied by interviews with the men (in
which they describe what happened, with little embellishment) and
clippings from news stories at the time (a minority of which display
what in retrospect seems outrageous bias in favour of the agreed
western spin on the war). There's an element of black comedy in the way
a group of uppity British lads somehow find themselves at war; but when
the torture begins, it's hard not to get angry at the systematic
disregard for the human rights of men who had been convicted of no
crime. Also hard to escape is the sheer bone-headedness of their
interrogators: convinced that their suspects work for "Al-Quaeda",
which they seem to conceive of as some kind of unitary and
institutional organisation, the Americans have no effective idea of
what to do except to put this proposition to their suspects ad nauseam
until they agree, with intermittent torture to ram home the point. That
a confession in these circumstances would have means precisely nothing
does not seem to have occurred to them. In fact, the men didn't break,
which was presumably easier because they had no idea of the sort of
information the Americans wanted from them. But (except at the very
end), there were heroic acts of defiance in the fashion of the
Hollywood prison movie either; against overwhelming force, such
behaviour isn't really on.
I would have liked to see the suspects called to explain themselves a little further when they say they went to Afghansistan to "help", but overall, their stories make a grim kind of sense, and they lost three years of their lives for a foolish expedition. Now they are Muslims in a way they never were before, having gained strength through their religion in their darkest hour. This is an important and absorbing film, which as with the same director's 'In This World', reminds you of how large the world is. And also makes you want to scream: "Not in My Name!".
This docu-drama focuses on the story of the 'Tipton Three' - young guys
from Birmingham who went to Pakistan to organise a wedding, decided to
pop over to Afghanistan (I can only assume through naivety, ignorance
and a misguided sense of adventure) to 'help' (though it appeared that
little effort was made) and ended up getting embroiled in the conflict,
captured with Taliban fighters and subsequently picked up by US Marines
for the crime of speaking English in a foreign country. From this point
'til their release, they are essentially told that they are Al Qaeda in
the hope that they'll admit to what is obviously not true.
If you can put yourself in their places, this is a harrowing film. (I spent a lot of it with my hand over my mouth...!) Being in a situation where you are being bullied and tortured - via some truly horrible methods and treatment - into admitting you're something you're not, with no means of proving your innocence must be...well, I can only imagine. I have every respect with the way they seemed to deal with it, especially given the candid way they discuss it in the documentary inserts that regularly appear throughout the movie.
For those who think it's unbalanced: I understand. However, it is THEIR story. Certain troops are shown in a human light, though let's face it: from what the film tells us, we're dealing with a situation involving the US equivalent of the SS You want the other side of the story? Listen to any George W. Bush press conference.
The acting is natural, the story flows, some of the shots are dramatically documentary-like and I felt that it fully deserved the praise it's received. Sadly, I feel that the only people who will watch this are the ones who are aware of the issues already, while middle-America will, I dare say, completely ignore it. Either way, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend spending 95 minutes of your time taking it all in. Sleeping afterwards might be a problem though. It was for me.
anyone still thinking that the war on terrorism is in defense of
democracy and civil human rights must, in the light of what is
documented in this film, reevaluate his/her position. it doesn't matter
why these young men went to Afganistan - the way they are treated by
the US government is appalling and i simply cannot understand how
anyone claiming to be a civilized human being, can defend the crimes
committed by US military personnel, as documented in this film. ...and
remember - these 3 guys were lucky - they are British nationals and
this means someone is looking out for them - their families live in GB
and they have the possibility of putting pressure on the British
government, but think of all the nameless Afghans and Pakistanis who
are held by the US and their allies under even worse conditions.
brilliant film BTW!
This is the reality of the dictatorship that we live under today.
George Bush and his neocons have completely discarded the rule of law
and are engaging in torture to pursue their evil ends.
This documentary shows what can happen not only to three Brits who were traveling to a wedding, but to anyone who lives in America under the present circumstances.
The military, who are not to blame as they were just ignorant rednecks following orders, are made to be cartoon characters. The "interregators" are just like police everywhere, they lie and deceive just to get someone to confess. The fact that they have been unable to get a confession shows just how ridiculous they are. Bellieve me, I would have confessed to buggery under those conditions.
Once we remove Bush from office in another 664 days, then Guantanamo should be closed and leveled to the ground so that not one stone sits atop another. It is too much to hope that Bush and his cohorts in crime would ever be borough to trial and punished as the war criminals they are for this sad chapter in our history.
The Road To Guantanamo a film which was screened on Channel 4 last
night is a harrowing tale of injustice committed by the American
Government under the guise of the war on terror.
Three innocent men, (actually four to begin with),childhood friends all British, 3 of Pakistani origin and one Bangladeshi ( not Arab as described by IronicFilmReference review) set off to Pakistan for a holiday and to attend the wedding of one of the 4 men.
With time on their hands before the wedding, stupidly they decide to go to Afghanistan to help with the relief effort at a time when the US is gearing up for an invasion.
When they realise the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan, they try to get back to Pakistan, instead they get taken deeper into the combat zone and there the 4 men from Tipton, became the Tipton 3 as one of their Friends (Monir) gets separated (and is never seen again).
Taken into custody by The US forces after surviving near starvation for a month at the hands of the Northern Alliance what should of been the end of their ordeal turns out to be just the beginning.What emerges next through interviews with the men and re-enactment of events is a tale of unbelievable treatment of the three men and incompetence at the hands of the US authorities.Routine humiliation and torture both physical and psychological in Afghanistan before they are sent to Guantanamo Bay, where they some how endure the same regime for a further 2 years.
This is an unmissable film/documentary of the above mentioned events which will have you question the freedoms and rights you enjoy so freely and how in this day and age the world is so silent on the injustice and blatant disregard for human rights that is taking place in Guantanamo Bay.Whatever else you do in 2006, watching this film should be at the top of your list.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The prison complex at Guantánamo, Cuba has been used to hold men
captured in Afghanistan or Pakistan post 9/11 and believed to be
Taliban or Al Qaeda. Perhaps 750 prisoners have gone through the
prison, perhaps 300-odd have been released. "Enemy combatant" was the
category created to justify rounding up prisoners and holding them for
years without following the Geneva Convention, bringing charges, or
providing legal representation or trials.
Prisoner's-eye views of Guantánamo have come to us from detainees released back to England. Several years ago the Tricycle Theater of London produced "Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom," which was also produced in New York and Chicago. In this dramatization, transcripts and interviews recounted the "Gitmo" experiences of Jamal al-Harith, Bisher al-Rawi, Moazzam Begg and Ruhel Ahmed and much time was devoted to their spoken narratives. In the background on stage could be seen the cages and orange-clad men of the prison, largely as tableaux. There was also an emphasis on British capitulation to US policies that violated British law. Voices of politicians (Jack Straw, Donald Rumsfeld), lawyers for the prisoners, and the chief legal officer of England, Lord Justice Styne, in a stunning rebuke, are also heard. But mainly, from transcripts of interviews and letters, what you get is a picture of the four prisoners and their families, the absurdity of the circumstances of their seizure, and their various individual responses from irony to despair and near-madness.
Now, a couple years later, again from British sources, there is "The Road to Guantanamo," a vivid pseudo-documentary based on the experiences of the "Tipton Three," Ruhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, twenty-year-olds of Pakistani and Bengali background from a predominantly poor area in the West Midlands; they originally were four, boyhood pals who went to Pakistan together because one of them was exploring the possibility of an arranged marriage with a girl there set up by his family. To hear them tell it, the whole trip was a kind of lark, but also an opportunity to explore roots and reconnect with relatives.
They're a bit rough, these boys, though perhaps not atypical for a part of England said to "have no middle class." They'd been in some trouble with the law and this is what ultimately gained them their release, because they had to check in at home for community service during the time they were supposed to be in Afghanistan with Al Qaeda, and so they had proof of their innocence from the Tipton cops.
They're all four Muslims and when they arrive in Pakistan they stay at a mosque, because it's cheaper than a hotel. The US is about to start bombing Afghanistan and a firebrand imam inspires the boys to go to Afghanistan to help the Afghans. They don't seem to grasp that they're heading directly into grave danger.
This is the part viewers and reviewers tend to question. Were the boys being stupid or is their description disingenuous? We don't know and unlike the Tricycle stage play Honor Bound, the film doesn't cleave closely to actual testimony. Where it excels beyond anything you've ever seen is as a Rough Guide to bumbling into a war zone. It's believable that wild boys on an adventure would want to explore the next country. They think they may be able to deal with the language and they've heard the naan bread loaves are huge. So they plunge in. And it all goes terribly wrong.
Michael Winterbottom and co-director Mat Whitecross have shot this story on location with intense vividness. The scenes of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the ultimate chaos and bombing and the trap the guys fall into, one of their number disappearing and never heard from again, followed by the van ride that was to take them out of the country but just leads them into the hands of the Northern alliance and a roundup of Taliban, a deadly ride in a metal container, and ultimately shipment to the barbed wire fences and brutalities of Guantánamo is inter-cut with head shots of the men narrating and commenting today played by non-actors chosen to be so close to the originals that you wouldn't know the difference.
Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 is madness, chaos, and war. Guantánamo is boneheaded stupidity, brutal racism, religious persecution, and psychological torture. "The Road to Guantanamo" gives us a strong taste of all those elements. This is in-your-face film-making of a peculiarly intense kind.
Although the play is more thoughtful and provides more perspective, Winterbottom's intense, gutsy agitprop is far more powerful. Its second half really just brings to life and adds detail to what we already know: the head masks, the chains, the suits, the outdoor cages, and the rest; the interrogators who hammer over and over to the boys "You're Al Qaeda!" They start at Camp X-Ray, for the worst treatment, and later are moved to Camp Delta. Finally the Tipton boys are called "The Three Kings" and given special treatment when, somewhat inexplicably, they've been cleared.
At this point much of the world protests this treatment of untried and un-accused prisoners that has now persisted for five years. With hunger strikes and attempted suicides and in the recent wake of three successful coordinated suicides of prisoners, some of America's closest allies are calling for "Gitmo" to be shut down, and even Bush has said he wants to. Winterbottom's pseudo-documentary, skillfully interspersed with actual documentary footage, is based on information provided by the three surviving Tipton Three. No one to my knowledge has been released back to the US or if anyone has, he hasn't spoken up.
While the Tricycle/Culture Project play appealed to the mind, the movie goes for the gut, and it does so very effectively. We need both. The play seems a little namby-pamby now. The movie seems careless. Together, though, they give you some kind of truth.
Clean cut, sharp and poignant, this is a documentary of those the
British press named the "Tipton Three". Three young Englishmen tell
their story of a wedding trip to Pakistan and an unplanned journey into
Afghanistan. Victims of circumstance, their tale leads to incarceration
in Guantanamo Bay and the apparently shocking treatment that ensued.
Whilst the story is told purely from the perspective of the detainees, there is never any point at which you really doubt the content of the film. In no way does the portrayal of events seem exaggerated or biased so as to evoke a stronger reaction from the audience. In parts sequences seem almost void of emotion in terms of their description, and surprisingly, the effect is to make it even more hard hitting. Not overcooking the trauma means what can only be assumed as a factual depiction of horrifying circumstances comes across quite superbly.
There are points where you can question the realism of the young men's decisions. For example, the point from which they want to leave Kabul back for Pakistan only to find themselves trapped with the Taliban is a little scantily dealt with. This may or may not be wholly accurate, and of course they felt compelled to follow those they felt were standing up for their religion, but from the individual interview footage you can't help feel they were impressionable youths just following their noses, lost in the surreal adventure of it all.
Perfectly paced, the film spends just the right amount of time on each area/location of the story. Winterbottom nicely interweaves footage from British television news to prompt recollection of the perspective from which the public saw the events in Afghanistan. And with a good balance of acted reconstruction and subject interview, both the drama and technicalities feel great. Is there no style or subject this man can't handle?
Road is the story of three British citizens of Pakistani descent who
through a series of accidents and bad coincidences wind up in
Taliban-held Afghanistan during the British-American bombing and
occupation in the post-911 months of 2001.
Ruhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul are 20-year-old devout Moslem men living in England who travel with their friend Monir to Pakistan to attend Asif's wedding. After spending a few days of shopping and sightseeing, the friends attend a mosque with Asif's Pakistani cousin, Zahid.
The Imam inspires them to volunteer to travel to Afghanistan and provide humanitarian aid presumably to the refugees being created in the civil strife with the Taliban on the eve of the invasion The friends decide to go to Kabul "to help." The story finds them set loose in the chaos of the invasion after the bus driver hits and kills a man, then leaves them.
They try to arrange for a ride back to Pakistan, instead the ride takes them north to a Taliban stronghold. The stronghold falls and they are taken prisoner; they lose track of Monir, and he is not heard from again. They herd the three onto trucks, and the nightmare truly begins: Asif and Shafiq are sent to Guantanamo, Zahid is imprisoned in Pakistan.
It's a hard movie to watch with the reenactments of the cruel treatment born by the "boys." What's always puzzled me is how did we know these detainees were Al Qaeda enablers, instrumental in the attacks of 911, sworn enemies of every good and decent American thing? The movie provides a news clip of King George saying, "The only thing I know for certain is that these are some bad people." Well we've seen the certainty of The Decider before, e.g. weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's relationship with Al Qaeda. According to MSNBC sources, as reported in Wikipedia: As of November 2006, out of 775 detainees brought to Guantanamo, approximately 340 have been released, leaving 435 detainees. Of those 435, 110 are labeled as ready for release. Of the other 325, only "more than 70" will face trial, the Pentagon says. That leaves about 250 who may be held indefinitely....
For my complete review of this movie and for other movie and book reviews, please visit my site TheCoffeeCoaster.com.
Brian Wright Copyright 2007
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