Directed by Michael Winterbottom
and Mat Whitecross
Running Time: 1:35
for language and disturbing violent content.
The Road to Guantanamo was a disturbing but extremely well made movie that still left me with a couple of doubts.
Shafiq, Ruhel, Asif and Monir are from Britain but head down to Pakistan so Asif can get married. While there, the U.S. starts their bombing campaign against Afghanistan, so the friends decide to go across the border to help out however they can. After securing passage across the border, they find that they're not really doing much and want to go back to Pakistan. But instead they are captured by the Northern Alliance and held as combatants. From there they are held captive in Afghanistan and at the U.S. base in Guantanamo. Their ordeal is harrowing and only after they can prove they weren't at a rally for Osama Bin Laden in 2000 are they finally allowed to go. In total, they are kept in prison for almost three years.
The Road to Guantanamo is a dramatic film based on the true story of these guys. Most everything you see in the movie is a re-enactment, while the three survivors narrate the story, and we see clips from them in current day. If what they said is 100% true, then this is a truly terrifying story about what can happen if you get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. I do have a couple of doubts about the beginnings of their story, however. I can understand living in Britain and going back to your homeland to get married. What I don't understand is why a guy would go without his mother, especially since she's the one who found him his wife in the first place. And then what I don't get it why he would go there to get married, but suddenly decide that going to Afghanistan in the middle of a war would be a good idea. There was nothing that showed me that these guys really cared about anything beyond themselves. They hadn't been to that part of the world in years. The guy getting married even said he'd have preferred to stay at home because he had a good job. So now just because they're in Pakistan they feel they can do some good? Then while in Afghanistan they feel like they're not doing anything so they might as well leave for Pakistan. But the car they get into goes in the wrong direction? And along the way they 'lose' one of their friends? There are too many holes in the beginning of their story for my liking.
However, once they get captured, the details they discuss seem too outrageous to not be true. They're held like dogs in cages, only allowed out for minutes at a time, once a week. They can't exercise or even stand up without permission. They're taken out of their cages and interrogated over and over again by both U.S. and British intelligence and randomly beaten for no reason. Once in Guantanamo, their living conditions are slightly better, but they are never allowed access to lawyers or family members. Intelligence officials look at a blurry video tape and firmly believe these guys were at a rally years earlier, even though there are hundreds of people in the video. They're forced to sit in uncomfortable positions for hours on end, listening to loud music that had me annoyed after only a few seconds. If what they say about their treatment is true, and if it's still going on today, this is a horrible travesty.
Forget about whether or not you believe the current war is just or not. Let's presume it is. That still doesn't justify the treatment of people based solely on an idea that they might be guilty of something. How can a country which stands for truth allow people to be treated like animals? How can we not allow people to meet with lawyers or family members? How can we try and dictate what other countries should do when we ourselves are committing these atrocities? The entire system is flawed. What stops any one of us from being taken off the streets because someone thinks we might have done something years earlier? These guys had no recourse once they were captured. Whether they're telling the truth about why they were in Afghanistan or not, there are just some basic human rights that everyone should have, especially in America. And we're not giving them any. The most telling part of the movie is a line from Donald Rumsfeld where he says prisoners would be treated "for the most part" in "a manner that is reasonably consistent" with the Geneva Convention.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, while I have some doubts to the total veracity of the story, I found The Road to Guantanamo to be a highly compelling story that needed to be told.
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