2006/05/20

The Road To Guantánamo


In this compelling docudrama by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, the 'Tipton Three' narrate their own experiences in America's controversial offshore detention camp


The Road To Guantánamo opens with archive footage of George W Bush, flanked by a stern-faced Tony Blair, declaring his certain knowledge that all the detainees held in Guantánamo are "bad people". Everything that follows is designed to turn these words inside out, as three young British Muslims tell the story of how they came to be in US custody at Guantánamo for over two years, and discuss the Kafkaesque horrors that awaited them there, until finally they were released without charge or apology.

The title may evoke the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope 'Road' movies of the 1940s, travel-themed musical comedies with a vaguely racist depiction of non-Americans, but the exotic journey embarked upon by the so-called 'Tipton Three' was to take them into areas that were politically incorrect in an altogether different way.

About to get married in Pakistan, Birmingham lad Asif Iqbal (Usman) invites his friends Ruhal Ahmed (Harun) and Shafiq Rasul (Ahmed) to join him there for a holiday. Accompanied by another friend called Monir (Siddiqui) and Shafiq's cousin Zahid (Iqbal), they head into Afghanistan, hoping to offer humanitarian aid to their fellow Muslims and to see the place for themselves.

After several weeks, they realise they've made a terrible mistake and try to head back to Pakistan, instead ending up under heavy bombardment near Kundun. Separated from Monir (who is never seen again), they become captives of the Northern Alliance in the notorious Sheberghan Prison. Once it is discovered that the three friends are English, they are at first relieved to find themselves handed over to American custody; but in fact their nightmare is only just beginning, as they are passed from Kandahar Airbase to Camp X-Ray, from Camp Delta to solitary confinement, facing mistreatment, injustice and endless, pointless interrogations.

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