The Road to Guantanamo
Autumn 2006 Edge series
Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 4:00pm
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Starring Riz Ahmed, Afran Usman, Farhad Harun
Rated NR ·
English and Urdu
The post-9/11 climate found the U.S. government resorting to many unorthodox methods to quash the perceived threat from further terrorist attacks. None was more controversial or more headline-grabbing than the detainment camp set up in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which was constructed to imprison and interrogate Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives captured by U.S. soldiers. Prolific British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story) turns his cameras on the camp with this true story of three innocent British 20-something Muslims who were captured and held at Guantanamo for two years. Winterbottom cleverly marries extensive interview footage with the three men — Asif Iqbal (Afran Usman), Ruhel Ahmed (Farhad Harun), and Shafiq Rasifknown (Riz Ahmed), collectively known as the Tipton Three — with nerve-jarring reconstructive footage of what happened to them.
After traveling to Pakistan for a wedding, the three men set out on an intrepid exploration of Afghanistan, only to find themselves captured by U.S. forces who mistook them for members of the Taliban/Al-Qaeda. The footage of the capture is intense and terrifying, with Winterbottom pulling some fearsome acting from his leads. But even that pales next to the reconstruction of their period in Guantanamo, where the men are stripped of their humanity and treated to brutal inquisition and torture methods, many of which seem untested and experimental in nature. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that one human being could treat another this way, until Winterbottom neatly intersperses more timely reminders from his interviews with the men themselves, adding further revelations to the shocking scenes the cast reenacts. Winterbottom mostly shoots on digital video throughout, and the gloomy, grainy texture of the film is perfectly used as a mirror of the personal hell these three men went through. Possibly Winterbottom’s best film yet, The Road to Guantanamo is must-see cinema that is likely to leave its audience shaking with rage and despair.