The Road to Guantanamo, Michael Winterbottom (2006)

It’s cliche to say so, but no less true for that: Everyone in America and Britain should see this movie. Through documentary interviews and dramatic re-creations it tells the story of the Tipton Three, and their horrific experiences, straight out of Kafka, in the custody of American forces. American and British intelligence forces, after the invasion of Afghanistan, were — justifiably — crazed with desire to glean useful, life-saving intelligence from any prisoners that even looked like they might know something. But that desire has clearly overwhelmed reason, as detainees like the Tipton Three have been accused, tortured, and interrogated for months upon months, even after it had become quite clear that there was no intelligence to be gleaned, because these guys were just stupid kids who’d wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I am not a pacifist or a bleeding heart. Given the opportunity to pull out Ratko Mladić‘s fingernails with a pair of pliers, I would be sorely tempted. What brings tears to my eyes watching this film is the profound insanity of Western interrogators who have no idea what they’re looking for and no idea who they’re talking to, and so become so frustrated by their own incapacity to make any sense out of the world that they lash out and torture people just in case they might be guilty of something. I pity the prisoners at Guantamamo. I pity their captors, too, who by now — it has been five years — must either know that there’s nothing further to be gained by the continued detention without charges of these men, or have gone insane.

People love to bash Winterbottom for his manipulative way of blurring the lines between documentary, commentary, and fictionalization. I’m unmoved by these arguments. His films in this vein (In This World is another brilliant one) use local lies to tell global truths, as all great examples of representational art do. Plus it just seems incredibly pissy to me to complain about a director who’s interested in putting before our eyes the kinds of stories that no one else ever brings to the cineplex. Go string up the fat, stupid, lazy bastard who made Gigli instead.

The best source I know for clear and unbiased information on the detainment camps at Guantanamo Bay is here.

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