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PRESIDENT VERSUS DAVID HICKS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
In January 2002, Australian David Hicks was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and handed over to US military authorities. He has been detained at the US base in Guantanamo Bay ever since and is soon to face trial on charges of conspiring to commit war crimes, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. Documentary-makers Curtis Levy and Bentley Dean follow Hicks' father Terry as he re-traces his son's steps in an attempt to understand the path David's life has taken. From his Adelaide home, Terry Hicks journeys to Pakistan, Afghanistan and finally to Guantanamo Bay.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
There is no suggestion by Terry Hicks or the makers of this documentary that David Hicks is innocent of the very serious charges he's facing - all they are asking for is a fair go and access to the basic legal rights any defendant in a democratic society should be able to expect. Like the recently screened Australian documentaries Letters To Ali (Melbourne Film International Film Festival) and Anthem (Sydney, Melbourne), The President vs David Hicks provides yet more compelling evidence that since Australia signed on for the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism, significant domestic policies have become subject to the influence and approval of the senior partner in the alliance.

How else can our leaders explain their unquestioning acceptance of absolute US control over Hicks, who has been detained in a metal cage for much of his two and a half years at Guantanamo Bay and only allowed fifteen minutes of exercise twice a week. The answer lies in the technical definition of Hicks as an "unlawful combatant" - a term invented by the US to bypass the Geneva Convention and allow the indefinite remand and "vigorous interrogation" of Hicks and others at Guantanamo Bay.

The questions asked by Terry Hicks are the same any reasonable Australian would ask and when we see him protesting from inside an identical cage outside parliament house and on Broadway we can understand his exasperation at his government's failure to request even the most fundamental of rights for its citizen. Far from the agit-prop manipulations of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, this is a highly accessible and deeply human story that chequer-boards Hicks' past with Terry's search for answers.

Letters written by Hicks during his conversion to Islam and active service in Kosovo, Kashmir and Afghanistan are cleverly inter-cut with testimony from those who knew him in Australia and with his father's journey to Pakistan and deep into the heart of Taliban territory in Afghanistan. Hicks, who had never been overseas before his son was captured, is the epitome of the average Aussie and his response to the startling truths he uncovers makes this a profoundly moving account of one man's search for a son he knows so little about.

The willingness of media conglomerates to push the US government's line on all matters relating to terror and Iraq makes the production of documentaries like this inevitable. The radical rise in the number of documentaries receiving theatrical release is a strong indicator that audiences no longer trust much of what passes for journalism on TV and in newspapers and are turning to alternative sources for at least a closer analysis of the truth.

The guilt or innocence of David Hicks is not what's at stake in this finely crafted essay. His basic welfare is the immediate issue and on a larger scale this asks serious questions about Australia's position on the world stage and how we conduct our internal affairs as a result. There's a reason why many Australians now feel ashamed to hear Advance Australia Fair and this film examines one contributing part in this sad decline in public sentiment. For anyone who cares about the state of the nation, The President vs David Hicks is essential viewing.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

PRESIDENT VERSUS DAVID HICKS, THE (M)
(Aus)

CAST: Documentary

PRODUCER: Curtis Levy

DIRECTOR: Curtis Levy and Bentley Dean

SCRIPT: Curtis Levy and Bentley Dean

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bentley Dean

EDITOR: Stewart Young

MUSIC: Felicity Fox

PRODUCTION DESIGN: N/a

RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Ronin

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 19, 2004







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