Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Côté & Henriquez's grim YOU DON'T LIKE THE TRUTH: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo

So what kind of folk hang out as prisoners in Guantánamo? For all the secrecy that surrounds the abuse, if not out-and-out torture, of these inmates -- which we've caught snippets of it documentaries such as Laura Poitras' very interesting THE OATH and the Whitecross/ Winterbottom hybrid The Road to Guantánamo -- the world at large has not been given much of a view inside the place. Now comes the U.S. theatrical premiere of a documentary by Canadian filmmakers Luc Côté (shown just below) and Patricio Henriquez (further below) that takes us there via a 99-minute movie culled from seven hours of surveillance during the questioning by Canadian intelligence, over a four-day period, of a Canadian teenager accused by the USA of being a war criminal.

YOU DON'T LIKE THE TRUTH: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo is the result, and TrustMovies would be lying if he did not tell you that this is difficult movie to sit through. But I'm afraid, it is also de rigueur for film buffs, documentary-lovers and any Americans -- hell, citizens of any country -- who want to know what we (and this came as a surprise to me) the Canadians are doing to the detainees. While we see no physical torture here, the metaphysical kind, the nasty mind-game-playing, is horrible enough.

The film is mainly composed of the surveillance video taken during the period in which Canadian intel-ligence tries to get our boy, Omar Khadr, to confess to things that -- over time and with some further investigation and documentation by various reporters -- we learn are simply untrue. The videos them-selves (below and at bottom), blurry and uninteresting (except, of course, for what is going on) are visually boring but shockingly on- target, audio-wise. One lengthy scene in which Omar (below), deliberately left alone, sobs and cries for his mother, is enough to reduce strong men to tears.

This is a grueling documentary for a number of reasons, chiefly that the filmmakers have no real access to their subject -- only to the surveillance visuals. Consequently they must rely on interviews with some of Omar's former cellmates, lawyers, newspaper reporters, psychiatrists and even Canada's former foreign minister Bill Graham.

By far the most interesting interview is with a fellow named Damien Corsetti, who worked as an interrogator in both Afghanistan and Iraq. "I did very bad things," he tells us.  "I became that monster that was written about me." And yet Corsetti finally blames the Canadian people (and by extension their government) for not protecting this boy upon his arrest. "I -- a cold, calculating son-of-a-bitch -- had more compassion for this boy than his own people." (Omar is shown above, at the age at which he was imprisoned, and below, as he appears now.)

The person you will probably most remember from this grim film, however, is Omar's Canadian interrogator: peppy, smart-assed and beyond reprehensible. Doling out lies on top of lies, he leaves his charge in a state of depression that grows worse from day to day. Though it was America who arrested the boy and charged him, it turns out that his own country, Canada, never tried to help him gain his freedom and instead became part of the nasty charade of fake justice/fake victory/fake-just-about-everything (except death) that has been the hallmark of our two current wars.

Yes, the movie raises more questions that it can answer completely. Omar was indeed with the Taliban when the attack occurred, but this does not mean that he was any part of its operation. His dad had left him in its care, and in the attack he was nearly killed and hardly capable of the murder of the American soldier for which he stood accused. (Investigative reporter Michelle Shephard pretty thoroughly debunks the government case in her section of the film). Finally, the movie stands as yet another example of American post-9/11 folly -- in terms of justice, human life and simple economics -- this time unfortunately abetted by our neighbor to the north.

YOU DON'T LIKE THE TRUTH: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo opens tomorrow, Wednesday, September 28, in New York City at Film Forum for a one-week run. Click here for screening times in New York, and here for past and upcoming screenings, worldwide.

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