Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Road to Guantanamo (Mat Whitecross, Michael Winterbottom, 2006)


Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom's unwieldy, distressing, enraging docudrama covers the stories of three British Guantanamo detainees who were held for two years without an official charge. Based on Whitecross' interviews with the three men, Winterbottom recreates their accounts of their experiences, which imply disgusting abuse of human rights on the part of the US government.

The film has major shortcomings. The reconstructions are creaky - the American soldiers, for one, all move and sound like bad actors (which, while arguably true to life, doesn't come off as intentional in this context); and it's difficult to keep track of who's whose alter ego. More worryingly, despite gaping plot holes, the 'Tipton Three's testimonies are not once challenged (a misstep that is that much more glaring since in 2007 one of them admitted to his involvement with an Islamist training camp).

But Whitecross and Winterbottom's implicit - and, yes, misjudged - assertion of the men's innocence pales in force and urgency beside their revolt at the unchecked monstrousness of Guantanamo as an institution. If these men's account of the treatment of detainees is at least partially factual - and no viable evidence has so far come up to undermine it - it is vital and horrific proof of humanity's regression in recent years. Ultimately, whatever its misgivings, a film that instigates debate and involvement in an elemental and ongoing injustice as well as documents and probes potentially one of mankind's gravest mistakes of the 21st century ought to be treasured and scrutinised.

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At 5:17 AM , Blogger Paul Martin said...

For what it's worth, I thought the soldiers' behaviour was quite authentic, even if it was clunky. As for training, I don't think that detracts from the film or its message at all. Nothing, and I mean nothing justifies the behaviour depicted.

At 1:27 AM , Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I don't think that the training justifies the Americans' behaviour (I agree that nothing could) but I do think it was irresponsible of Whitecross and Winterbottom to accept and endorse the men's innocence. If they challenged it, it would have made for a much more complex and no less powerful film.


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