The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross, 2006)
The biggest joke in Michael Winterbottom and co-director Mat Whitecross' docudrama The Road to Guantanamo comes from the mouth of Donald Rumsfeld, words captured in an archived news clipping of one of his press conferences that was used in the film. Like the devil's puppet or a gravely naive political personality, he justifies the prison camps in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as within the confines of the standards put forth in the Geneva Convention. The truth is the very existence of these notorious prison camps is a sidestep of the United States from the adhered human rights principles enshrined in the Geneva Convention. Why would the land of the free and the brave spend millions of dollars building these facilities in a Communist nation, presumably where torture and other questionable methods are accepted but painful truths, when there are legal means of turning over these supposed terrorists to their jurisdiction. Why are these supposed terrorists handcuffed, blindfolded, and kept for years in an unknown location, treated like animals by a nation that espouses freedom and bravery? It's plain and ridiculous and if The Road to Guantanamo is acceptable evidence in the international court of law, I hope it finds Bush guilty beyond any reasonable doubt of the most heinous of crimes: masquerading evil as beautiful concepts of justice, turning these atrocities into palatable practice.
The Road to Guantanamo recounts the tale of the Tipton Three, three British men of Pakistani descent who travel back to their motherland to find wives for themselves. While in Pakistan, they make a side trip to Afghanistan where the United States is currently staging its supposed war against terror. They get mixed up along with the Taliban fighters, and upon the surrender of the Taliban regime, they get rounded up along with the fighters and are brought to the Kandahar airbase, and later on, brought to Guantanamo Bay for further interrogation.
Winterbottom and Whitecross interview the Tipton Three. Their recounted tales are reenacted, filmed in a style that is not unlike Winterbottom's style in In This World (2002). The resulting effect is tremendous. The narration by the three Pakistani-born Brits are cringing enough by themselves, but coupled with realistic depictions of the actual happenings, it becomes moving. Perception may differ with regards to one's political leanings, and the film has suffered backlash because of its so-called anti-American sentiments. It doesn't really matter if the Tipton Three had anything to do with terrorism. That is beyond the point. The film does not seek to emotionally attach its viewers with the plight of these three. In fact, casted to play the three are anonymous actors, who look very much like each other, further removing any invitation to connect with the three. Whatever characterization is gathered not from the reenactment but from the interviews with the Tipton Three themselves. In other words, Winterbottom and Whitecross are out to drive a deeper point, not to relish within the confines of meager cinematic storytelling, but to declare that there is something inherently wrong in this American practice.
The depictions of the happenings in the prison camps are harrowing although I am sure it is much more harrowing in real life. In the film, we get a glimpses of humanity from one of the prison guards who idly requests one of the Tipton Three to rap, and in return, kills a huge tarantula he notices while the prisoner is sleeping. Those instances of kindness may or may not be around at present times, but the reality of everything is that the injustices, the lack of due process, the prolonged captivity with hardly an ounce of evidence to justify such, is happening, far from the prying eyes of the citizens of the United States.