[News] Must See - Road to Guantanamo

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jun 24 20:42:27 EDT 2006

This film " Road to Guantanamo" was just released 
in the Bay Area and is a must see. 2 articles 
from February follow. For anyone who has known a 
US prison, they have clearly captured the 
mentality of US prison guards and the US military 
while exposing the consistent willingness to 
torture and violate human rights by both.

Trailer   http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4631171106002398288

Ex-captives push Guantanamo film

Tuesday 14 February 2006 6:56 PM GMT

Two former Guantanamo Bay captives have joined 
Michael Winterbottom, a British director, to 
promote his semi-documentary film about their 
experience, an appearance that they coupled with 
a call for the prison's closure.

Asif Iqbal, Ruhel Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, friends 
who became known as "the Tipton three" after 
their English hometown, were captured in 
Afghanistan in 2001. They were released without 
charge from the US detention centre on Cuba in March 2004.

The Road to Guantanamo, one of 19 films competing 
at this year's Berlin International Film 
Festival, combines interviews with the men, news 
archive material and scenes re-creating their 
experience. Ahmed and Rasul joined Winterbottom 
on Tuesday, at the film's premiere.

Rasul said: "We want to show the world what's 
happening in Guantanamo. What we really want is 
everyone to be released from there; we want the place to be closed down."

The three Britons and a fourth friend went to 
Pakistan shortly after 11 September, 2001, to attend Iqbal's wedding.

The film depicts them travelling next to 
neighbouring Afghanistan, after hearing an imam's 
call to help people in need there. Of the 
then-ruling Taliban, Ahmed said: "We had no idea who they were."

They were captured by Northern Alliance troops 
before being taken to Guantanamo.

Sweltering cages

In a report released by their lawyers in 2004, 
the three Britons claimed they suffered 
systematic brutality and were kept in open cages 
in the sweltering Cuban heat, and that the 
treatment forced them to make false confessions.

"We had it rough, but we didn't have it as bad as 
others, for example the Arabs. Because we could 
speak English and communicate with people, I 
think it made it a lot easier for us."

The United States is holding about 500 people in 
Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or 
the Taliban, though only 10 suspects have been 
charged. The prison has drawn widespread criticism in Europe and elsewhere.

Winterbottom and co-director Mat Whitecross met 
the three about two months after their release, 
and Whitecross spent a month interviewing them for material for the film.

Winterbottom won the Berlin festival's top Golden 
Bear prize in 2003 for In This World, a story of 
two young Afghans' gruelling journey to England as refugees.

He said The Road to Guantanamo focused on the 
personal story of the three - to "put faces to 
three of the people there and then imagine that 
could also apply to the other 500 people who are still there."

Winterbottom told reporters: "The starting point 
was to tell (about) these three people, not to 
tell the general political situation.

"All the images you see - it's hard to know 
whether it's deliberate or not, they sort of 
dehumanise the people there -you don't have any sense of what they're like."

Personal approach

In concentrating on the personal approach, the 
filmmakers did not seek comment from US and 
British authorities, Winterbottom said. He 
brushed aside suggestions that the film could be seen as anti-American.

He said: "I don't think the film is anti-American in a general sense."

He said that it aimed to send the message that 
"the fact of Guantanamo's existence is shocking 
and terrible, and it shouldn't be there".

Rasul said that "nobody's ever said, to this day, 
that we are innocent". The two former captives 
also said they had expected more support from 
Muslims at home after their return.

"In their eyes - not all of them - but the area 
we live in, we were guilty. It was hard for our families."

The film is to be shown by Britain's Channel Four 
television in March. Winterbottom did not give 
details of other release plans.

You can find this article at:

Guantanamo film re-opens debate
By Damien McGuinness
in Berlin

One of the most eagerly awaited films at this 
year's Berlin Film Festival, The Road To 
Guantanamo by British director Michael 
Winterbottom, is premiered in the German capital on Wednesday.

Judging from the attention it has already 
attracted here, the film looks set to re-ignite 
the whole debate about the Guantanamo Bay American detention camp in Cuba.

There aren't many films which create a buzz at 
Berlin Film Festival before being shown.

It was no surprise that Tuesday's press screening 
of The Road To Guantanamo filled to capacity as soon as it opened its doors.


The film tells the story of the three British 
Muslims, from Tipton in the Midlands, who went to 
Pakistan to arrange a wedding, travelled to 
Afghanistan and were transported to Guantanamo Bay.

They were held there without trial for more than 
two years before charges were dropped and they were released in March 2004.

Dramatised scenes, charting their journey, are 
interspersed with interviews with the men 
themselves, who explain what happened to them and how they felt.

"I don't think the film is anti-American because 
there are plenty of Americans who are against 
Guantanamo Bay too," says Michael Winterbottom.

"But the very fact that this camp exists is shocking.

"We are telling the story of these three people 
so you can imagine yourself what it is like to be 
in a situation where your rights are taken away 
from you, you have no contact with your family 
and no idea when you will be released," he adds.

Winterbottom first came up with the idea of 
making the film when he met Shafiq Rasul, Asif 
Iqbal and Ruhal Ahmed two months after they had been released.

He interviewed the men, and turned the resulting 
600 pages of transcript into a 95-minute feature.

"If someone had said five years ago that the US 
would set up a camp, in Cuba of all places, to 
hold people for four years without trial or 
charges, then you would have thought he was crazy.

'Hard to sleep'

"But the problem is, people have got used to it."

Shafiq Rasul and Ruhal Ahmed came to Berlin and 
said they were pleased with the film.

"When you are first released it's hard to sleep," says Shafiq Rasul.

"You keep hearing soldiers banging on the cells 
and you wake up sweating and thinking of soldiers 
and then you realise you're back home. But as 
time goes on, you have to move on and live your life."

I don't think the film is anti-American because 
there are plenty of Americans who are against Guantanamo Bay too
Film director Michael Winterbottom

Winterbottom is no newcomer to Berlin. In 2003 he 
won the festival's top prize, the Golden Bear, 
for the documentary-style drama In This World, 
which followed two Afghan asylum seekers on their journey to the UK .

But despite getting a lot of attention for the 
subject matter, not everyone is so impressed with the film itself.

"I don't really know what the point of it is, as 
it doesn't tell you anything new," said Anne 
Troester, film critic for the Berlin-based magazine The Ex-Berliner.

"It seemed very black and white, like all the 
Americans are bad and all the Muslim guys are good.

"If you are an American who doesn't know the 
facts about Guantanamo Bay, you're just going to 
end up walking out because you'll feel alienated," she says.

But Luke Harding, Berlin correspondent for The 
Guardian newspaper, said: "I thought the film was 
brilliant. You could really feel empathy for them."

Judging from the amount of interest already 
generated at Berlin, distribution for the film is likely to be widespread.

Winterbottom plans to release the film 
simultaneously online and on DVD, and in March it 
will be shown on Channel 4 television in the UK.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/02/15 11:26:38 GMT


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