Through reenactments, interviews, and news footage examines the imprisonment of a trio of British Muslims, known as the Tipton Three, held in Guant?anamo Bay for two years and released without charges being filed against t... more »hem.
B. Merritt | WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California | 11/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How much is too much when considering the price of our freedoms and liberties? Do all people, regardless of race, creed, sex, ethnicity, or political affiliation, deserve legal representation? Watch THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO and then ask yourself these questions.
The Road to Guantanamo is about a group of friends known as The Tipton Three, Middle Eastern men who live in England and decide to travel to Pakistan where one of them plans to be wedded. Although they start out as four, one quickly disappears as they travel across the border into Afghanistan on a roadtrip. Unfortunately for them, this was right at the time the U.S. began its battle with the Taliban. Bombs drop around Shafiq, Ruhel, Monir, and Asif, the young men who start out on this hellish journey. They quickly try to get away but are led into even more dangerous areas by suspicious men with guns who lock them up in cargo trucks or force them to trek into the desert. Soon, U.S. and British forces arrive and take Shafiq, Ruhel, and Asif into custody. The whereabouts of Monir are never discovered. His body is never found.
Filmed using actors and the original Tipton three, the documentary is a disturbing treatise on prisoners of war. That we see the bizarre circumstances leading to their "arrest" and incarceration is even more disturbing considering these men were officially residents of England. But because they have Middle Eastern blood in their veins, they are immediately labeled as terrorists or Taliban fighters or (unbelievably) Al Qaeda.
The road that The Three travel is horrifying. Death hits near them on every stretch, nearly killing one or all of them at some point; whether its dysentery, Allied bombs, or torture.
It is this last that we become painfully aware of as The Three enter Cuba and the "Gitmo" detention center. Never having been charged with a single crime, nor having evidence against them, the U.S. forces continually inflict terrible pains on the men. Isolation. Loud music for hours and hours. Sitting in the scalding heat day in and day out. Being knocked down time and again during interrogations when they don't give the interrogators the information they "want to hear."
Held for a little over two years, The Three are finally released without charges and returned to England. No apologies. No legal recourse. Nothing is available to them.
All of this sounds completely un-American and cruel. And it is. But there are some interesting points hit upon in the documentary that are simply left dangling, leaving it up to the audience to decide what they mean. Most importantly is that there's really no explanation as to why The Three decided to go into Afghanistan in the first place. They just do. One might assume that they did it as a kind of fun roadtrip that went terribly awry. But this isn't stated outright.
Still, the cost of freedom is implicitly felt throughout the film as the audience watches these men denied any sort of legal representation and then subjected to torture techniques that skim the legalities of The Geneva Convention."
Never to be forgoten
Reyadh Ahmed Khamis | bahrain | 09/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"By now, I must have seen thousands of movies, Most of them faded away during time, but there are some great movies that you will never forget.
The Road To Guantanamo is one of those movies that will linger in your memory for a long time to come.
It will leave you shocked, it will make to think about the world we live in, the society, the culture and mostly the big events happening in during our life?
This is a documentary movie, set in our past and current time and I assure you that every time you watch the news, there will be something linking to this movie for many years to come.
How much truth is in this film? Please read this peice of news article published on 19th sep 2006.
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A Saudi has been held in solitary confinement for a year at the Guantanamo Bay prison and is now so mentally unbalanced he considers insects his friends, lawyers said in a motion filed Monday seeking the man's removal from isolation.
Shaker Aamer, a 37-year-old resident of Britain, was placed in isolated confinement Sept. 24, 2005, and has been beaten by guards, deprived of sleep and subjected to temperature extremes, according to the motion filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The treatment violates Geneva Conventions protections, Aamer's lawyers argued. The U.S. military denied he is being mistreated.
"They choked him," the lawyer said. "They bent his nose repeatedly so hard to the side he thought it would break. ... They gouged his eyes. They held his eyes open and shined a mag-lite in them for minutes on end, generating intense heat. They bent his fingers until he screamed. When he screamed, they cut off his airway, then put a mask on him so he could not cry out."
War on Terror POW's Tell Their Side of the Story
Bryan Carey | Houston, TX | 01/10/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Road to Guantanamo is a movie about the inhumane conditions inflicted on three Muslim men who spent almost three years at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba. This movie is part drama and part documentary. The majority of the film uses dramatizations of the actual events with actors playing three Muslim Englishmen and the military personnel who capture them. The remaining parts of the movie include actual interviews with the three guys and some archive footage of Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and others.
Directors Michal Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross attempt to tackle a very large, controversial subject with Road to Guantanamo and rather than stick to the usual documentary formula of expert testimony, archive footage, and interviews, they decided to try something a little different. Using actors, this docu- drama attempts to let the outside world see what conditions are like inside Guantanamo Bay. The prisoners who suffer at the hands of the military personnel number far more than Asif, Ruhal, and Shafiq. Like the dramatizations show, most everyone at this military base was subject to daily doses of humiliation, physical pain, and mental torture as different captors tried to extract confessions of guilt from the three men and those around them.
Among the scenes in this movie, the ones that are most memorable are those taken at prison (a dramatization- it wasn't really filmed there). Watch in disgust as the military people rough up uncooperative prisoners; force the men to sit in physically uncomfortable positions; force the men to listen to loud, blaring music; deny them of their right to pray each day; etc. And, of course, there was plenty of dishonesty on the part of the military personnel when it came time to interrogate. Why was all of this done? To try to get one or all of the men to confess to having some involvement in the Al Qaeda led attacks on September 11, 2001, or to at least obtain some information about Osama Bin Laden and where he might be hiding. Most viewers will find this part of the film moving, regardless of whether or not they agree with this type of interrogation. Personally, I don't like the way things are handled when it comes to POW's and interrogation but, on the other hand, this is war and during war you cannot always be nice and friendly to your captives, especially when you are trying to get information from them that could lead to the arrest of a known killer.
This docu- drama is intended to illustrate the horrors of war and the human rights abuses that often take place when prisoners of war are interrogated. It fulfills its task effectively in some ways but not in others. The scenes taken from the prison are among the best in the film, even if they are performed by actors, because they let the world see what it was like to spend time in these prisons as an innocent person. I know that many have denied the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay but I think what this docu- drama portrays is pretty accurate. The reason I say this is because the conditions depicted, while nasty and certainly undesirable, are not nearly as bad as they could be and they don't come close to the torture inflicted on POW's in other countries. In other words, I don't think anyone can say that the alleged conditions displayed in this movie are exaggerated. They seem to be right on the mark and while they are nothing to be proud of, they are not as horrifying as the stories told by POW's from other wars, like Vietnam.
As far as the viewpoints offered, Road to Guantanamo doesn't offer a balanced picture by any stretch and this should come as no surprise to anyone since the goal of this docu- drama is to gain sympathy for these three innocent men (and others like them) who lost nearly three years of their lives in a military prison. But this lack of any balance is one of the movie's downfalls. Not only is there no counter argument from military personnel, there is no commentary from any one else except the three men themselves. It is nice that these three men are willing to come forward and offer their take on the brutality of war but the movie would have been much more effective if it included at least some commentary by others; like, say, human rights experts, political analysts, military experts, etc. The viewing public fully expects the three men who were held captive to have nothing but negative things to say about the experience. We expect that. But it takes more than one side to make a documentary of this type believable and the filmmakers should have expanded the movie to include commentary from others as further proof of the film's conclusions.
Another thing I'm not too happy with about Road to Guantanamo is the DVD; specifically, the lack of extras. The only things you get on the DVD are a scene selection option, previews, and other usual things you get on all DVD's. Here, once again, the directors blew a golden opportunity. The movie makes you want to know more about this controversy and the directors could have fulfilled that curiosity and added to the film's credibility with some educational DVD extras. But they don't offer anything to satisfy the viewer's cravings for more information.
The three men portrayed in this documentary did win release from prison in 2004 and the charges were dismissed. They each maintained their innocence which was later proven true. They kept their spirits throughout this time of injustice and they have now emerged stronger than ever. Each of the men talks at length on this documentary about the experience and they claim that their personal character and Muslim faith are now impenetrable thanks to the negative experience at Guantanamo Bay.
Overall, Road to Guantanamo is a pretty good film with an important message about POW and the proper way to treat them. It is very one- sided and inconsistent and it falls short of the great documentary it could have been because of its lack of expert testimony and other persuasive/educational material. But it is still a good documentary/drama about the horrors of life as a POW and it is worth a watch. "
The Abrogation of Human Rights and Due Process.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 05/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Road to Guantanamo" tells the story of "The Tipton Three", three young British men who were held in U.S. custody for 2 years, first in Afghanistan and later in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, accused of being supporters of Al Qaeda. Asif Iqbal, Ruhel Ahmed, and Shafiq Rasul had traveled to Pakistan for Asif's wedding. On a lark, the group foolishly took a trip to Afghanistan at the worst possible time: October 2001, when the United States invaded Afghanistan following the attacks of September 11. Caught in the bloody melee of bombings and Taliban resistance, the men ended up among Taliban fighters as they tried to return to Pakistan. The threesome were arrested by the Northern Alliance, which turned them over to the U.S. military. Initially relieved to be in U.S. custody, they soon found that the Americans were determined to find them guilty of being jihadists. And if evidence was lacking, their captors were willing to coerce confessions.
The story is told through interviews with Asif, Ruhel, and Shafiq and through re-enactments of their experiences, where the men are played by actors. Michael Winterbottom directed this film, which initially struck me as not being as polished as his fiction films. But, upon reflection, the recreations of the bloodshed in Afghanistan and life for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are fairly meticulous and expert. Winterbottom undoubtedly did not want to give the impression of polish or contrivance, but of immediacy and realism in depicting the ordeal these three men suffered. The men were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay from January 2002 to March 2004, first at "Camp X-Ray" and then at "Camp Delta". I'm inclined to believe their accounts of their experiences there, as the descriptions are similar to those related by other former Guantanamo and "black site" detainees.
The men were tortured, deprived of sleep, and, for months, not allowed to stand or walk more than 5 minutes per week. This is not news, though this film offers more detail of the treatment of detainees than I've read in print. The strategies and apparent motivations of the American interrogators might be more damning. Military officers charged with finding "bad people" and eliciting information are under a lot of pressure to produce results. So they pass even unlikely culprits up the chain of command, until the prisoners get to Guantanamo Bay, by which time it should be painfully obvious that they don't possess useful information. Asking the same question for 2 years is unlikely to produce a different answer. In a pitiful effort to find "The Tipton Three" guilty of something, the U.S. claimed to have photographs placing them at an Al Qaeda rally in Afghanistan in 2000, a time for which the men had easily verifiable alibis. But that didn't stop their captors from torturing a confession out of them.
We can only be grateful that Asif, Ruhel, and Shafiq did not sustain long-term injury from the abominable treatment they endured. Egyptian President Nasser's imprisonment and torture of Muslim Brotherhood partisans in the 1960s, whether or not they had committed any crime, galvanized their contempt of secular government and the West. These Westernized Pakistani Brits from Tipton have become more observant Muslims as a result of their ordeal. I don't suppose that they or the other 750 men who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay are feeling a lot of love for the United States right now. There are no bonus features on the DVD (Sony 2006). Subtitles available in English."
Full of Raw Energy and Power, Not Exactly Well-Balanced
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 03/21/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross' "The Road to Guantanamo" employs an interesting narrative style usually called `docu-drama,' unique blend of reality and fiction. The method worked with "In This World" an account of two Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Winterbottom again uses this method in order to re-create the experiences of "The Tipton Three" -- Ruhal Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal -- three British Muslins who were caught by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, and later detained by the US military before they were sent to, and then held in Guantanamo Bay detainment camp for two years.
Instead of traditional narrative method with character development, the film opts for more direct approach with fast cutting and grainy semi-documentary images. It has a series of scenes of the harrowing tortures and humiliating abuse inflicted on the three and other detainees. The film is meant to raise anger in the viewers' heart, and its directors Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross are successful in that even if you think that there might be another side to the story.
I admit the film's undeniable power and the palpable anger of the directors. However, in spite of them and the inserted footage of the interviews with the real three detainees, the film did not work for me as "In This World" several years ago. At some points "The Road to Guantanamo" becomes very hazy. Besides the somewhat vague accounts of how and why they went to Afghanistan, the three main characters remain rather bland and interchangeable, almost like ciphers. Or maybe that is the point.
"The Road to Guantanamo" is a very emotional experience to me. After all, it is meant to be so. It is filled with raw energy and power that are remarkable, though I prefer more balanced approach to the subject matter."