The Road to Guantanamo

The Road to Guantanamo

name = The Road to Guantanamo

director =Michael Winterbottom
writer =Michael Winterbottom
starring =Rizwan Ahmed,
Farhad Harun,
Arfan Usman
producer =
distributor = The Klockworx Co., Ltd
released =14 February 2006
runtime = 95 mins
language = Predominantly English
music = Molly Nyman
Harry Escott
award = Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear
budget = £1.4 million
imdb_id =0468094
amg_id = 1:343407

"The Road to Guantanamo" is a British 2006 docudrama directed by Michael Winterbottom about the incarceration of three British detainees at a detainment camp in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. It premiered at the Berlinale on 14 February, 2006, and first shown in the UK on Channel 4 on 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 Whitecross is credited as co-director, and handled most of the interviews with the real-life counterparts to the main characters.The New York Times: " [ At the Tribeca Festival, Foreign Films Tell Tales That Hit Close to Home] ", 28 April, 2006, [ 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 Cohen of US-distributors Roadside Attractions condemned 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: " [ 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: " [ Michael Winterbottom on The Road To Guantánamo] "] three young British men from Tipton in the West Midlands of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins who traveled to Pakistan in September 2001 just days after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 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 Afghanistan to 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 Taliban positions all over the country. They made it to Kandahar without incident, and later to the capital city of Kabul a 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 military and imprisoned in a US army stockade 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-Qaeda fighters to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they remained for the next two years. They were held in mostly solitary confinement without charge or legal representation.

The rest of the film shows several scenes depicting beatings during interrogation, the use of torture techniques 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 Agency interrogators.

In one incident, one US army guard at Camp X-Ray desecrated one prisoner's Qu'ran by 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 Arab prisoner for not obeying their orders. When Ruhal shouts out to the guards that the beatings and torture are in violation of the Geneva Conventions governing 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 England where, 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: " [,,1717953,00.html Using terror to fight terror] ", 26 February, 2006]


The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in Berlin, Germany on 14 February, 2006. It was broadcast to the UK on Channel 4 on 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 States in 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, " [,,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 gulag of our times" [ [ Speech] by Irene Khan at 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: " [,1518,394180,00.html Merkel: Guantanamo Mustn't Exist in Long Term] ", 9 January, 2006.] .

Actors detained

Four of the actors in the film were detained for about an hour by police at London Luton Airport after 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: " [,,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 police said 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.

Lie Lab

In 2007 two members of the Tipton Three - Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul - agreed to participate in the Channel 4 documentary "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 imaging to look at the activity in the pre frontal cortex to determine the truthfulness of statements [ [ Lie Lab from ] ] . 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 Islamist training camp, where he handled weapons and learned how to use an AK47. Rasul refused to go through with the test.The Observer: " [,,2094030,00.html] ", 3 June, 2007]


External links

* [ Official site]
* [ Official Channel 4 site, including film download]
* [ Official Japanese site]
*imdb title|id=0468094
*rotten-tomatoes|id=road_to_guantanamo|title=The Road to Guantanamo
*amg movie|id=1:343407|title=The Road to Guantanamo
* [ Close Guantánamo Flotilla]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Road to Guantanamo — The Road to Guantánamo The Road to Guantánamo est un docu fiction de Michael Winterbottom de 2006. Il a reçu l Ours d argent du Meilleur réalisateur au festival de Berlin en 2006. La première a eu lieu au festival de Berlin le 14 février 2006, et …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Road to Guantánamo — est un docu fiction de Michael Winterbottom de 2006. Il a reçu l Ours d argent du Meilleur réalisateur au festival de Berlin en 2006. La première a eu lieu au festival de Berlin le 14 février 2006, et le film a été montré pour la première fois au …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Road to Guantanamo — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel The Road to Guantánamo Produktionsland UK …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Guantanamo Bay detention camp — The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp is a controversial [ [ Guantanamo controversy rumbles on] ] United States detention center operated by Joint Task Force Guantanamo since 2002 in Guantanamo Bay …   Wikipedia

  • Guantánamo (disambiguation) — Guantánamo or Guantanamo may refer to:* Guantánamo Province in southeastern Cuba * Guantánamo, a city and seat of Guantánamo Province * Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a body of water on the south shore of Cuba * Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, a United States… …   Wikipedia

  • Guantanamo — Guantánamo Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Guantanamo-Bay — Lage des Stützpunktes in der Guantánamo Bucht Die Guantanamo Bay Naval Base ist ein Stützpunkt der US Navy auf Kuba. Er liegt im Süden der Guantánamo Bucht, etwa 15 Kilometer südlich der gleichnamigen Stadt Guantánamo. Für den Stützpunkt wird… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Guantanamo Bay — Lage des Stützpunktes in der Guantánamo Bucht Die Guantanamo Bay Naval Base ist ein Stützpunkt der US Navy auf Kuba. Er liegt im Süden der Guantánamo Bucht, etwa 15 Kilometer südlich der gleichnamigen Stadt Guantánamo. Für den Stützpunkt wird… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Guantanamo Bay Naval Base — Gitmo redirects here. For other uses, see Gitmo (disambiguation). For other titular locales, see Guantánamo (disambiguation). Coordinates: 19°54′N 75°9′W /  …   Wikipedia

  • Guantanamo detainees' medical care — Abandoned hospital used in Camp X Ray in early 2002 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.