ROAD TO GUANTANAMO, THE
Known as the "Tipton Three," in reference to their home town in Britain, the film tells the story of three British nationals of Muslim faith, Ruhel (Farhad Harun), Asif (Afran Usan), Shafiq (Riz Ahmed) and Monir (Waqar Siddiqui) who were arrested as suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and three of them eventually held in the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. After two years of imprisonment they were finally returned to Britain and released. Part documentary, part dramatization, the film chronicles the sequence of events that led the trio from Tipton in the British Midlands to a planned wedding in Pakistan to their crossing the Afghanistan border just as the US began its bombing campaign, to eventual capture by the Northern Alliance to imprisonment at Camp X-Ray and later at Camp Delta in Guantánamo.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For a film that purports to tell the story of the 'Tipton Three' from their point of view, as told by the real people who went through the ordeal, Road to Guantánamo is surprisingly confusing about how they got themselves captured. True, there is always confusion in war, but I would like to think that this aspect of the story is pretty important to be absolutely clear. Made with their full co-operation, this documentary drama may not be fully objective, but it does make for a gripping movie - and one to make you think. It is made as if it were a real documentary, but the action is dramatised re-enactment, intercut with newsreel footage.
It begins with scenes that establish their ordinariness in suburban Birmingham, with a montage of short scenes covering the preparations to leave for a holiday in Pakistan, where one of the young men, Asif (Afran Usan) is to marry a girl picked out for him by mum. All this is rather sketchy, but the film is not about the cultural issues facing the English-resident Asif.
After they misadventure into Konduz, the last Taliban stronghold being attacked by the Northern Alliance, the holiday turns into a very nasty prison tour, starting in Sheberghan prison, then at Kandahar air base and finally Guantánamo. Throughout, they protest their innocence but are treated brutally. Some of these scenes are harrowing but they also raise the question of just how intelligent are these intelligence officers?
Some will complain that the film plays into the hands of terrorist organisations by bringing the US policy on terror suspects captured in the field of battle into disrepute, but that really misses the point that the US has shot itself in the foot with that policy. As for the right answer to that question, this is not the film to provide it, although it may prompt further discussion of it. Indeed, that answer may never be found, given the nature of terrorist activity.
Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the story is the revelation that their experiences have helped them become better, stronger people. Still, don't try this at home ...
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ROAD TO GUANTANAMO, THE (MA)
CAST: Riz Ahmed, Farhad Harun, Waqar Siddiqui, Afran Usman, Shahid Iqbal, Sher Khan, Jason Salkey, Jacob Gaffney, Mark Holden
PRODUCER: Andrew Eaton, Melissa Parmenter, Michael Winterbottom
DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom (Mat Whitecross, co-director)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marcel Zyskind
EDITOR: Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross
MUSIC: Harry Escott, Molly Nyman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Digby
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 16, 2006