English film director Michael Winterbottom and the three subjects of his most recent film, The Road to Guantanamo, were on hand last night for a post-screening discussion about conditions inside the Cuban base sponsored by the ACLU. Hosted by the IFC Center as a part of their ongoing Q&A series, the panel led by ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero brought home the responsibility of all people who care about human rights to speak out against the conditions and unlawful status of Guantanamo.
Winterbottom's film dramatizes the experience of three young British men, known as "the Tipton Three" named for the part of England they call home, who on a wedding trip to Pakistan in 2001 end up in Afghanistan and subsequently rounded up by US forces to be sent to Guantanamo. At the camp, they're held for two years without any formal charges being brought against them and subjected to sleep deprivation, noise torture and host of other deplorable treatments in order to force a confession that they are affiliated with Al Qaeda. Winterbottom inter-cuts recreated footage with actors and documentary-style story telling from the real Tipton three for a powerful and important film experience.
When R.E.M. lead singer and audience member, Michael Stipe stood up to the microphone to apologize on behalf of all Americans for Ruhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul's treatment, it was a surprisingly moving moment. Even on a projected iChat AV hook up from the UK, Ahmed, Iqbal and Rasul were very charming and animated. It was easy to see why Winterbottom thought they would communicate well on screen. They talked about how touched they were by the standing ovation for them at the Berlin Film Festival, where the film won the Silver Bear, and the importance of seeing their story told to as wide an audience as possible.
The film begins its limited theatrical release today screening at the Angelika downtown and Lincoln Plaza on the Upper West Side. It's a must see for anyone who likes engaging storytelling, and cares about American policy and human rights.