FOUR DAYS INSIDE GUANTANAMO

Four Days Inside Guantanamo
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FOUR DAYS INSIDE GUANTANAMO



Written by Olivia Patt
25 Sunday 25th September 2011

Viewed as a possible gold mine of information on terrorist activity in Afghanistan, Khadr was interrogated by Canadian special police for four days in 2008. For two weeks before the interrogation, Khadr was deprived of sleep to make him more amenable to questioning. In July 2008, footage of the interrogation was released. Filmmakers Luc Côté and Patricio Henríquez saw these grainy videos, and were inspired by the plight of Khadr to make Four Days Inside Guantánamo: You Don't Like The Truth. Using the actual footage of the interrogation, interspersed with interviews with ex-prisoners and specialists, Cote and Henriquez try to give us Khadr’s real story, raw and uncomfortable to watch. We spoke to the directors about the making of this powerful documentary.

What made you decide to begin this project?

Patricio: We learnt in July 2008 that the Supreme Court had ordered the Canadian government to release a lot of documents linked with Omar Khadr. They ordered the government to also release a video tape, a very bad quality videotape, with about eight hours of interviews and interrogations made by these two Canadian police in Guantánamo. The lawyers, when they got this material, made additional edits and put about ten minutes of it online. We saw that and immediately got the impression that this was amazing. With documentaries, we say that a big part of the reality cannot be filmed. And we have these images coming from the dark side of Guantánamo – a lot of people have been in Guantánamo, camera men, journalists, but they are sightseeing. We got the impression that the media was not paying enough attention to this. Everyone watched the footage, maybe thirty seconds, a minute, but no one wanted to see the content of hours of footage – one of the differences between documentary filmmakers and journalists I think! We had time to watch the footage.

Luc: The quality of the tapes were so bad that to transcribe it took us hundreds of viewings. I remember, we were very naïve. We wrote to Omar Khadr’s lawyer asking them for the transcripts, and of course they never answered back. We had to play it over and over again, and we began to really understand what was going on.

Can you tell us about the process of making the documentary?

L: When we saw the material we decided to do something right away. We didn’t have any funding, but we wanted to put something on the web to denounce the Canadian government. There was an election coming up in the fall, and we wanted to do something very quickly, to show what was going on with our government regarding the case of Omar Khadr. We did a fifteen minute piece that we put on the web. As we were working on the piece, we realised the wealth of information and the possibilities that we had with this. After this, we decided to do a feature length documentary.

Directors Luc and Patricio

What do you want the viewer to take from this film, when they see this documentary?

P: Of course, our point of view in sympathy for Omar Khadr, we want people to see it from his position. We didn’t want to change anything. We tried to preserve this interrogation, and discover the kind of dialogue you can have inside Guantanamo. This is why we called the film, You Don’t Like the Truth, because that was the reaction of Omar Khadr to the questions of the interrogators. The Canadian policemen are probably thinking that they are protecting us, thinking about democracy, freedom, all of this, but they are not really interested in speaking with this boy. We don’t know if he threw the grenade or not. We’re not trying to say whether he did it or not. We just let the viewer decide. The most important thing for us is just to show this interrogation, and to show the dialogue between them. The policemen had an idea that was preconceived and nothing could be said to change this idea; these people that are supposed to protect us.

L: That’s why we didn’t change anything. We didn’t play with the sound, that was the sound that was recorded in Guantanamo, and also the image. We kept the four cameras, even though there was one that was black, so you get the real thing. This is still, in 2011, the only footage that exists from inside Guantanamo. There is nothing else. We didn’t think we needed to play with it in any way. It’s the reality. Omar was of course not aware that he was recorded from all these angles. It was important for us to show it raw, the way it was. We used people to complement the information, to make us better understand the context of the story.

What was it like speaking to the released prisoners?

P: We sent the emails, we made the phonecalls, and everybody wanted to participate. Even Damien Corsetti, an interrogator at the prison. The torturer. Everybody agreed because everybody believes. Everybody that had been in contact with Omar believes he is not a terrorist.

L: Another thing I could add about working with the ex-prisoners is that all of them had such an incredible story. We felt we could have made a film about each one of them, because each of their stories was so incredible. In the end our focus was Omar Khadr, but it would have been very easy to go in all directions because their stories were so fantastic. All these people had such a desire to talk, to tell their own story, to share. It made us understand a little bit more what was happening with Omar. It was absolutely fascinating and a great privilege to be able to interview these guys.

There are some that say the treatment of Omar Khadr is one of the reasons that Canada did not receive a seat on the UN Security Council – do you believe this to be true?

P: We believe that is was probably one of the reasons. Not the whole reason, maybe not even the main reason, but one of the reasons. Canada has changed a lot. Canada used to have an international reputation, they were a kind of bridge between the United States and a lot of other countries. Canada was on the international scene for years, and was seen a country with an interesting point of view, and they got a lot of respect for that. It seems to me that since we’ve had the Conservative government, a lot of things have changed. We feel we had to say this because some people still think Canada is a progressive international country, and we don’t. The case of Omar Khadr is one of the reasons – if, with our film we can help people to understand what Canada’s international policy is like today, then we are very happy.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

L: This film has been such an incredible adventure, and it’s not over. Next week we’ll be in New York, it’s released in New York, in London. For the past year the film has been in more than fifty festivals around the world, next month we’re going to Argentina – we’re still doing a lot of work with the film. At this point, I just want to not be involved with another film for a few months, and keep working on this one. 

Four Days Inside Guantanamo: You Don't Like The Truth comes to the Ritzy Cinema, Brixton, on 7th October. To find out more about the film, visit the website here

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Comments

  • Guest: tammana
    Mon 10 - Oct - 2011, 21:47
    ok this is a good documentary but what happens after it all ends? Is Omar going to be left in prison or is someone going to try and get him out? Maybe someone could organise some sort of march in Canada? Imagine if that was you.

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