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The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair
The Prisoner or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair
Actor: Yunis Khatayer Abbas
Directors: Michael Tucker, Petra Epperlein
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
PG-13     2007     1hr 12min

In september 2003 freelance iraqi cameraman yunis khatayer abbas was arrested and accused of planning to kill tony blair. This documentary is an extraordinary portrait of an ordinary man trying to make sense of an absurd a...  more »
     
     
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Movie Details

Actor: Yunis Khatayer Abbas
Directors: Michael Tucker, Petra Epperlein
Creators: Michael Tucker, Petra Epperlein
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Studio: Magnolia
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/05/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 12min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: Arabic, English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Kafka meets iraq
13 Fox | Ft. Sill | 06/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Prisoner" tells the story of Yunis Abbas, an Iraqi cameraman who was arrested along with his brothers in 2003 for planning to kill Tony Blair and spent 9 months in Abu Ghraib before the army released him.

On the surface, we read about stuff like this every day, but the triumph of 'The Prisoner" is not so much the story that it tells, but the way the story is told. For the first time, we are able to see the war from the perspective of a man who could be any of us--a friend, family or a neighbor. Most importantly, Yunis tells his story with a surprisingly sharp sense of humor--his entire tale his paved with black comedy and the film often feels like it came straight off one of Kafka's pages.

I highly recommend this film to anyone seeking a better understanding of the human side of the war beyond the headlines.

"
Provocative documentary
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 07/28/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"***1/2

"The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair" is a movie with one hell of a provocative, eye-catching title. It's only after you figure out what the movie is actually about, however, that you get the full ironic flavor of that title.

This timely documentary chronicles the story of Yunis Khatayer Abbas, a freelance Iraqi journalist who, along with two of his younger brothers, was falsely accused of planning to assassinate the British Prime Minister during one of his official trips to Baghdad. The movie makes it clear that Yunis and his siblings were innocent from the get-go, and that, after serving nine grueling months at sites including the notorious Abu Graib, they were finally released back to their worried families, with a simple muttered "sorry" from the American commanders as sole compensation for the misery they'd suffered.

The story behind the movie is almost as intriguing as the movie itself. Yunis first came to the attention of documentary filmmaker Michael Tucker when the latter was embedded with a National Guard unit - whose job it was to scour Bagdad neighborhoods for suspected terrorists and weapon caches - on the night Yunis was arrested. Yunis' pleas of innocence, as well as his assertion that he was himself a journalist, piqued the interest of Tucker, who, two years later, decided to follow up on the story and find out what had become of the man.

A large portion of the movie's 72-minute running time is dedicated to Yunis speaking freely to the camera, relating the experiences that happened to him in his own unedited words. In addition, Tucker and his co-director, Petra Epperlein (who also happens to be his wife), include footage of Yunis' actual arrest (first seen in Tucker's previous film, "Gunner Palace"), home movies of Yunis and his family at home and at the beach in happier times, and interviews with humane soldiers who served as guards during Yunis' captivity in Abu Graib. The brutalities and indignities Yunis suffered during his imprisonment come through loud and clear as he recounts the horrors of his experience. Epperlein, an artist in her own right, has also provided a series of stark graphic images to go along with Yunis' words.

Given its subject matter, "The Prisoner" will undoubtedly be seen by some on the Right as a mere leftist screed or tract, one designed to paint the Americans in the worst light possible and, in so doing, "provide aid and comfort to the enemy." It would be truly a shame if anyone saw the movie in such simplistic terms, especially as Yunis makes it quite clear that he was no fan of Saddam Hussein either, having suffered imprisonment and torture for daring to speak out against injustice under that regime as well. Plus, the movie emphasizes the humanity of many of the American fighters in standing up against the hellish treatment being inflicted on the prisoners under their care. Yunis speaks in glowing terms of some of these men, and it is clear that, through the experience, he forged lifelong relationships with a number of them. Yunis' understandable bitterness appears to extend only to the individuals responsible for his predicament, not to Americans in general.

It is a well-known, but rarely practiced, truism that the willingness to engage in honest self-criticism is the first step towards uncovering the truth and achieving justice in the world. "The Prisoner" is a small but crucial step in that direction.

"
Tragedy of Errors
Rocky Raccoon | Boise, ID | 06/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Facetiously, 'The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair' has playful videos by the beach accompanied to frenetic music that sounds like it comes straight from 'Pulp Fiction'. Despite his ordeal, Iraqi journalist Abbas conveys warmth and humor looking into the camera, spending most of the documentary time being interviewed about his time in Abu Ghraib prison. Never actually told to this day about his crime, he was nevertheless implicated with the tongue-in-cheek title of this revealing film.

Most of the revelations, however, aren't funny. For someone like me who has believed that people have overreacted to the abuses of The Geneva Convention, this movie is an eye-opener. First of all Abbas has been on both sides of the fence. As a journalist and camerman, he was a first hand victim of Uday Hussein's government, imprisoned during a "speech embargo" and subjected to electrical torture in prison. How welcome do the words of President Bush come as a slide show of pictures show Saddam Hussein's statue being toppled with his regime. Then, he is hit with another nightmare. Caught at a discoteque with his two younger brothers, Khalid and Yuris, he goes to Camp Ganci at Abu Ghraib where conditions are grim. Besides being a facility that's vulnerable to shell fire, riots, contaminated food, beatings, and disease were part and parcel of their lives.

Abbas sincerity rings true in this documentary. What is striking is how US soldier Thompson authenticates the story. Not seeming vengeful or jaundiced Thompson shares what we already know: After the debacle of abuses hit the airwaves, a makeover was presented. Thompson came during that makeover. Asked to not acquire his predecessors' transgressions, he comprised a fresh crew that was meant to sweep the abuses away. Thompson makes a good witness to the before and after scenario of Abu Ghraib. While his testimony is convincing, it is meant to be seen and heard. I won't spoil it for you here. Nevertheless, they also give a higher administrative official a chance to defend what had happened to balance the presentation. Much like the power of 'The Road to Guantanamo,' but with sparer resources (a comic strip flash of story boards with sound effects intermittently fills the accounts), less reinactment, but even more convincing, 'The Prisoner..." is a compelling piece of work that easily makes one flinch during the viewing. (Eye, ear, and mind opening)"