The Road to Guantanamo
Title: The Road to Guantanamo
Author: Independent Spirit Award (2006)
A trio of British Muslims, known as the Tipton Three, were held in Guantanamo Bay for two years until they were released without charge.
After Welcome to Sarajevo and In This World, The Road to Guantánamo is Michael Winterbottom’s most important film. Along with United 93, it’s one of the most important films released by anyone in 2006. In the docudrama, which was produced for British television, Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross recount the travails of the Tipton Three, a trio of Britons detained for two years at Guantánamo Bay. How did these apolitical Muslims end up as suspected terrorists? The directors attempt to answer that question by inter-cutting interviews and news footage with recreations of their Kafka-esque journey. It starts with a trip to Pakistan for the wedding of Asif (Afran Usman). In short order, he’s joined by Ruhel (Farhad Harun), Shafiq (Riz Ahmed), and Monir (Waqar Siddiqui). On a whim, they decide to visit Afghanistan: “One, for experience, and two, to help.” It proves to be their undoing. First, they’re caught in a bombing raid; then the Northern Alliance rounds them up as members of al-Qaeda. In the mêlée, Monir goes missing. The remaining three are shipped to Cuba, where US officials stop at nothing to coerce confessions. There’s a hard-won happy ending, but it isn’t easy to watch—Alan Parker’s Ollie Stone-penned Midnight Express seems downright lyrical in comparison. Further, the acting is inconsistent and the character development is sketchy. Those flaws aside, The Road to Guantánamo is powerful and provocative stuff. —Kathleen C. Fennessy