The Road To Guantanamo

The Road to Guantanamo is a 2006 docu-drama directed by Michael Winterbottom about the incarceration of three British detainees at a detainment camp in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. It was premiered at the Berlinale on 14th February, 2006, and first shown in the UK on Channel 4 on 9th March, 2006. The following day it was the first film to be released simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD and on the Internet.

Filming took place in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, which doubled as Cuba. Mat Whitecross is credited as co-director, and handled most of the interviews with the real-life counterparts to the main characters.

The original poster made to promote the film in the United States (shown right) was refused by the Motion Picture Association of America. The reason given was that the burlap sack over the detainee's head was considered to be depicting torture, and therefore inappropriate for young children to see. The final version of the poster showed just the detainee's manacled hands.

The film tells the story of Ruhal Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul (the 'Tipton Three'); three young British men from Tipton in the West Midlands who were captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001 and imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, without charge or legal representation, for nearly three years. As well as interviews with the three men themselves and archive news footage from the period, the film contains an account of the three men's experiences following their capture by the Northern Alliance, the subsequent handover to the United States military and their detention in Cuba. It contains several scenes depicting their beatings during interrogation, the use of torture techniques such as 'stress positions' and attempts to extract forced confessions of involvement with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The Tipton Three were all released without charge in 2004.

The torture depicted in the movie had to be softened from the detainees' accounts for the benefit of the actors; according to Rizwan Ahmed, they were unable to bear the pain caused by the shackles pressing on their legs, and had to have them cushioned. They were also unable to remain in the stress positions depicted for more than an hour; the Tipton Three were allegedly left in them for up to eight hours.

The film was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in Berlin, Germany on 14th February, 2006. It was broadcast to the UK on Channel 4 on 9th March, attracting 1.6 million viewers, and released on DVD and the Internet the following day. Roadside Attractions, an independent distributor, bought the rights to show the film in the United States in late March.

Iranian authorities not only asked the film's distributor to release the film in Iran, unusual for a Western picture, but, according to the distributor's president, ordered four prints instead of the usual one and offered three times the normal amount. As of late April the film was still awaiting official approval and was expected to be released in late May.

Michael Winterbottom won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival.

Commentators have criticised Winterbottom for not questioning the accounts of the Tipton Three; a review in The Times (which gave the film 3 out of 5 stars) refers to this gap as "an insane lack of cool perspective" and Alex Shifrin at the website described the mens' justification for why they were in Afghanistan at the time of the war as "pathetically weak." However, the charge that human rights abuses have taken place at Guantanamo Bay echos widespread criticism by organisations such as Amnesty International, who referred to the prison as "the gulag of our times" and world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who stated that "An institution like Guantánamo in its present form cannot and must not exist in the long term".

Four of the actors in the film were detained for about an hour by police at London Luton Airport after returning from the film's premiere in Berlin. Rizwan Ahmed alleged that during questioning police asked him whether he had become an actor to further the Islamic cause, questioned him on his views on the Iraq war, verbally abused him and denied him access to a telephone. He was then asked to become an informant for the police.

A spokesperson for Bedfordshire police said that none of the men were arrested and that the Terrorism Act allows the police to "stop and examine people if something happens that might be suspicious". She did not clarify what the actors had done to arouse suspicion.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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