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“The documentary is based on the true story of the...”

Written on: 08/04/2007 by dblock (25 reviews written)

The documentary is based on the true story of the 'Tipton Three'. There is very little that appears in the television which gives an accurate reflection to what is going on in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thus when Channel 4 decided to show the Michael Winterbottom's documentary 'The Road to Guantanamo' it gave a brief insight to the British public to the true nature of this prison camp.

At the beginning, we see a group of young men, who head off from the West Midlands to Pakistan to attend the wedding of a friend. They appear as normal young men and during the first few days they enjoy the local culture and are generally having a good time. Across the border in Afghanistan, however there is increasing tension and is a country in political turmoil. The part of Pakistan they are living in is close to the border with Afghanistan and they hear about possible humanitarian help being needed there. They then decide to go over Afghanistan. From the film it is not made entirely clear why exactly they decide to travel, but it seems that the call for help seems the most obvious reason, as they do not know the language and they don't appear to know what is going on in the country. The move seems quite naive and they don't realize what situation they are getting themselves into. At this point in the film, if you don't happen to know the story before, you are a little bemused at what may be going on. It is unlike Hollywood films where the viewer is lured into a false sense of reality. The director is on purpose highlighting the fact that this was a normal bunch of youths away on holiday.

When they arrive in Afghanistan they find things different to how they expected. They are not aware of the situation and find themselves in an awkward position as U.S forces began their strikes of Afghanistan and the nation embroiled in a tribal war. The boys appear to realize this quickly and they want to leave the country soon after their arrival. Their lack of knowledge then proves fateful for them as they attempt to negotiate a trip back to Pakistan they are actually driven closer to the firing line and a massive military onslaught. They find themselves in grave danger and are then split up as a result of U.S bombings. One of the friends was never heard from again. The rest of the boys are eventually rounded up by American forces and kept prisoner for a number of months in conditions that clearly would test the Geneva convention. It is at this point where the film really gets serious and becomes very emotional. The boys are somewhat relieved at first that they are captured, they think it is there chance to be rescued if they re-tell their story to the American troops. However they are in for a very big shock. Instead of being seen as innocent bystanders caught up in the fighting they are accused of being terrorists and involved in the fight against the U.S.

The remaining boys are flown off to Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo bay, Cuba. It is quite shocking viewing at this time, the boys are beaten and tortured regularly. At the same time as the reconstruction and video footage of these events, the 3 men in question narrate their story of how they were brutalized. This approach was very effective, as at times you begin to wonder whether the reconstructions can be accurate as you have an understanding that the American forces would not be this brutal. However the interviews with the 3 men are so emotional and realizing that they are not actors it gives you a better understanding of the events. The men in Guantanamo Bay are living in extreme conditions, the heat is immense and they are caged and blindfolded outside for most of the day. You are shown torture techniques that the armies regularly use and also shown interrogations of the alleged suspects. The 3 friends continually plead their innocence but there stories are continually rejected. You see how the detainees go through an emotional rollercoaster, there are moments of compassion by some of the U.S forces yet at the same time there are other force members which are cruel beyond comprehension. Eventually after 3 years the 3 men are told they are freed. The evidence amounted against them proved to be false and without an apology they are flown back to England and reunited with their families.

It is difficult to know how to feel while watching this, you want it not to be true or have some rational explanation but what you see is further abuse, interrogation and violation of human rights. The film doesn't seem to champion any political cause or movement. It also doesn't critique the 'War on Terror' as I thought it might do. It main cause seems to be that of human right's. It shows how important these are and how it is simple to lose them in the world we are living in today. These were three normal men and due to mistakes (some of their own making) they were embroiled in a war situation in a country which was alien to them. These events although not very common, can be understood and can be seen as very unfortunate. However the treatment they endured during the time captured was beyond belief and should make people stand up and take note. It is quite embarrassing that these events are allowed to continue and innocent people have their lives taken away from them in such a manner. At some points in the film you do see the problem from the other point of view. No doubt the American forces have a tough time deciding who is a terrorist and who is an innocent civilian. Yet you quickly lose these sympathies when you see everyone is treated as the most dangerous of criminals, it is terrifying to think what it would be like if you were in that situation.

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