Thursday, 7 March 2013

Four Days In Guantanamo

Four Days In Guantanamo

An inmate of the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, in 2002, Omar Khadr was the sole survivor of an American attack on a house containing suspected Afghan insurgents.  Peppered with shrapnel wounds, blind in one eye and bearing several bullet wounds to the chest, Omar was then taken prisoner, arrested and charged with murdering a US soldier, killed in the attack by a grenade.  He was then airlifted to the infamous detention centre at Bagram Airbase where he received minimal medical attention to his near-fatal wounds and, he alleges, he was then interrogated under torture, a claim supported not just by his fellow prisoners but by one of America’s most infamous ‘interrogators,’ Damien “Monster” Corsetti, who witnessed first-hand his abuse.  Omar Khadr was 15 years old and a Canadian citizen.

Culled from four days of secret video footage, the only film ever to emerge from America’s secret prison, Four Days In Guantanamo is a genuinely shocking indictment of the things being done in our names.  The footage, classified until 2009, shows agents of the Canadian intelligence services, the CSIS, Canada’s answer to Britain’s MI6, grilling a teenage countryman who had been tortured by American forces, held incommunicado for a year and denied legal representation or access to Canadian Embassy staff.  The questioning takes place in a Guantanamo Bay interrogation cell and is starkly filmed by hidden US Army surveillance cameras. 

Initially elated to finally have some contact with representatives of his own country and believing his nightmare to be almost over, we watch as Khadr’s joy turns to an almost suicidal despair as he’s subjected to four days of relentless questioning, his initial hopes that finally someone is going to listen to his side of the story turning to ash as his interrogators move from two-faced friendship to outright bullying.  His emotional breakdown is coldly devastating and one of the bleakest, most desolate pieces of film you will ever see.  Robbed off all hope, each time he is asked for the truth by his interrogators, he can only answer: “You don’t like the truth.”  Côté and Henriquez have taken the original footage, split the screen to show all three feeds at once, the empty fourth quarter of the screen often occupied by experts and interviewees like former detainee journalist and human rights campaigner Mozaam Begg. psychiatrists, Khadr’s lawyers, family and military personnel.  Toronto Star reporter Michelle Shephard takes us through the post-attack drone footage, questioning whether the badly injured teenager, shot three times, blinded by shrapnel, facedown, buried by rubble, could even have physically thrown the grenade while human rights campaigners point out that under international law Khadr should have been classed as a child soldier and protected not only by his home country Canada but by the full weight of the UN.  

One of the most fascinating interview subjects is repentant former interrogator Corsetti who offers both a fascinating deconstruction of the vulnerable Khadr’s increasingly hopeless, defeated body language, a dissection of the interrogators’ mindset and his own personal recollections of the teenage Khadr at Bagram.  One of the few detainees whom the bearlike soldier took pity upon, Corsetti remembers the 15-year was so badly injured while being abused by other US soldiers that he had still a hole in his chest the size of a Coke can.  Genuinely believing Khadr is innocent of all charges, Corsetti obviously empathises with the teenager and, like Khadr’s military lawyer, he has completely lost all faith in the very concept of American justice.   

David Watson

Luc Côté, Patricio Henriquez
Running time
99 minutes

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