- The Road to Guantanamo
name = The Road to Guantanamo
writer =Michael Winterbottom
Rizwan Ahmed, Farhad Harun, Arfan Usman
distributor = The Klockworx Co., Ltd
14 February 2006
runtime = 95 mins
language = Predominantly English
Molly Nyman Harry Escott
Berlin Film FestivalSilver Bear
budget = £1.4 million
amg_id = 1:343407
"The Road to Guantanamo" is a British 2006
docudramadirected by Michael Winterbottomabout the incarceration of three British detainees at a detainment camp in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. It premiered at the Berlinaleon 14 February, 2006, and first shown in the UK on Channel 4on 9 March, 2006. The following day it was the first film to be released simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD, and on the Internet. It won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Filming took place in
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, which doubled as Cuba. Mat Whitecrossis credited as co-director, and handled most of the interviews with the real-life counterparts to the main characters. The New York Times: " [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/28/movies/28trib.html At the Tribeca Festival, Foreign Films Tell Tales That Hit Close to Home] ", 28 April, 2006, [http://www.roadtoguantanamomovie.com/reviews/nytimes/nyt_01.html mirror] ]
The original poster made to promote the film in the United States (shown right) was refused by the
Motion Picture Association of America. The reason given was that the burlap sack over the detainee's head was considered to be depicting torture, and therefore inappropriate for young children to see. Howard Cohenof US-distributors Roadside Attractionscondemned this as "inconsistent" when compared to the MPAA-approved posters for contemporary horror films such as "Hard Candy" or "Hostel". The final version of the poster showed just the detainee's manacled hands. [ The Washington Post: " [http://www.roadtoguantanamomovie.com/reviews/washington_post/wp_5-17-06.html MPAA Rates Poster an F] ", May 17, 2006]
The film portrays a version of the story partial to the views of
Ruhal Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul(the ' Tipton Three'); [ Channel 4: " [http://www.channel4.com/film/reviews/feature.jsp?V=3&SV=5&id=154599 Michael Winterbottom on The Road To Guantánamo] "] three young British men from Tiptonin the West Midlands of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins who traveled to Pakistanin September 2001 just days after the September 11 terrorist attacksin the USA, ostensibly to a wedding of a friend of theirs. While staying at a mosque in Karachi, the three decided to take a rash and dangerous trip to Afghanistanto see first-hand the encounters of the region.
Mixed with interviews with the three men themselves, and archive news footage from the period, the film contains an account of the three men's experiences from their travels into Afghanistan and to their capture and imprisonment.
Traveling by van, Ruhal, Asif, and Shafiq, with two other friends, crossed the border in October 2001 just as US warplanes began attacking
Talibanpositions all over the country. They made it to Kandaharwithout incident, and later to the capital city of Kabula few days later. After nearly a month of "lingering" aimlessly around Kabul, the Tipton Three decided to return to Pakistan. But through a combination of bad luck and the increasing chaos, the friends apparently took the wrong bus which traveled further into Afghanistan towards the north and the front-line fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance rebels. The convoy of vehicles they were riding in was hit by an airstrike, and they were left wandering around the trackless and inhospitable terrain of the unfamiliar country. In mid-November, near the town of Baghlan, the three came across a group of Taliban fighters asked them to take them to Pakistan, but they all were captured shortly thereafter by Northern Alliance soldiers.
Imprisoned at a base at
Mazar-e Sharif, they were interrogated and discovered to be of British origin. With no luggage, money, passports, Ruhal, Asif, and Shafiq were handed over to the United States militaryand imprisoned in a US armystockade for a month with other prisoners, being regularly interrogated and occasionally beaten by US soldiers.
In January 2002, the 'Tipton Three' were declared "
enemy combatants" by the US military, and flown with dozens of Taliban and al-Qaedafighters to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they remained for the next two years. They were held in mostly solitary confinementwithout charge or legal representation.
The rest of the film shows several scenes depicting beatings during interrogation, the use of
torturetechniques such as ' stress positions' and attempts to extract forced confessions of involvement with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The isolation continued from the Camp X-Ray where they were held as well as another camp during the two years they were there where they were subjected to more questioning by US army and Central Intelligence Agencyinterrogators.
In one incident, one US army guard at
Camp X-Raydesecrated one prisoner's Qu'ranby throwing it to the ground to incite a reaction from the rest of the prisoners.
In another incident, Ruhal witnessed a group of US soldiers severely beat up one unruly and mentally ill
Arabprisoner for not obeying their orders. When Ruhal shouts out to the guards that the beatings and torture are in violation of the Geneva Conventionsgoverning the treatment of POWs, he is responded with laughter from the guards.
The Tipton Three were all released without charge and without any compensation for their imprisonment in 2004. The three were flown back to
Englandwhere, one year later, they went back to Pakistan for the wedding they planned to attend in the first place.
The torture depicted in the film had to be softened from the detainees' claims for the benefit of the actors; according to Rizwan Ahmed, they were unable to bear the pain caused by the shackles pressing on their legs, and had to have them cushioned. They were also unable to remain in the stress positions depicted for more than an hour; the Tipton Three claim they were left in them for up to eight hours.
The Observer: " [http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,,1717953,00.html Using terror to fight terror] ", 26 February, 2006]
The film premiered at the
Berlin Film Festivalin Berlin, Germanyon 14 February, 2006. It was broadcast to the UK on Channel 4on 9th March, attracting 1.6 million viewers, [ The Guardian: "TV ratings: March 9", 10 March 2006] and released on DVD and the Internet the following day. Roadside Attractions, an independent distributor, bought the rights to show the film in the United Statesin late March. [ Reuters: " 'Road to Guantanamo' leads to U.S. theaters", 21 March, 2006] Iranian authorities not only asked the film's distributor to release the film in Iran, unusual for a Western picture, but, according to the distributor's president, ordered four prints instead of the usual one and offered three times the normal amount. As of late April the film was still awaiting official approval and was expected to be released in late May. [Variety: " 'Guantanamo' OK for Iran; Authorities to follow 'Road '", 30 April, 2006]
The film received generally positive reviews, garnering an 86% positive rating at
Rotten Tomatoes. Michael Winterbottom won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival.
Commentators have criticised Winterbottom for not questioning the decision of the Tipton Three to enter Afghanistan in the first place; a review in "
The Times" (which gave the film 3 out of 5 stars) refers to this gap as "an insane lack of cool perspective,". The Times, " [http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14931-2076204,00.html The Road to Guantanamo] " 9 March, 2006] .Regardless of the wisdom of the mens' initial trip, their account of human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay highlights widespread criticism by organisations such as Amnesty International, who referred to the prison as "the gulagof our times" [ [http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGPOL100142005 Speech] by Irene Khanat Foreign Press Association, 25 May, 2005] and world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who stated that "An institution like Guantánamo in its present form cannot and must not exist in the long term" [ Der Spiegel: " [http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,394180,00.html Merkel: Guantanamo Mustn't Exist in Long Term] ", 9 January, 2006.] .
Four of the actors in the film were detained for about an hour by police at
London Luton Airportafter returning from the film's premiere in Berlin. Rizwan Ahmed alleged that during questioning police asked him whether he had become an actor to further the Islamic cause, questioned him on his views on the Iraq war, verbally abused him and denied him access to a telephone.The Guardian: " [http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1714282,00.html Guantánamo actors questioned under terror act after film festival] ", 21 February, 2006 ] He was then asked to become an informant for the police.
A spokesperson for
Bedfordshire policesaid that none of the men were arrested and that the Terrorism Act allows the police to" "stop and examine people if something happens that might be suspicious". She did not clarify what the actors had done to arouse suspicion.
In 2007 two members of the Tipton Three - Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul - agreed to participate in the
Channel 4documentary "Lie Lab" in an attempt to prove their innocence of allegations made by the US Government. The technology used on the show was developed by Professor Sean Spence from the University of Sheffield. It uses Functional magnetic resonance imagingto look at the activity in the pre frontal cortex to determine the truthfulness of statements [ [http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/L/lie_lab/detection_1.html Lie Lab from Channel4.com ] ] . Having previously claimed that he had entered Afghanistan for the purposes of carrying out charity work, Ruhal Ahmed admitted on the programme that he had visited an Islamisttraining camp, where he handled weapons and learned how to use an AK47. Rasul refused to go through with the test. The Observer: " [http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,,2094030,00.html] ", 3 June, 2007]
* [http://www.roadtoguantanamomovie.com/ Official site]
* [http://www.channel4.com/film/newsfeatures/microsites/G/guantanamo/index.html Official Channel 4 site, including film download]
* [http://www.guantanamo.jp/ Official Japanese site]
*rotten-tomatoes|id=road_to_guantanamo|title=The Road to Guantanamo
*amg movie|id=1:343407|title=The Road to Guantanamo
* [http://www.amnesty.org/guantanamoflotilla Close Guantánamo Flotilla]
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