The truth hurts
Professor hosts expository documentary about Guantanamo Bay
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 16:11
Guantanamo Bay: home to some of the fiercest enemies of the United States and one 16-year-old boy.
On Wednesday night, Department of Media Studies professor Tanya Shilina-Conte hosted a screening of You Don’t Like The Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo at the Center For the Arts. The documentary, directed by Luc Côté and Patricio Henriquez, followed Omar Khadr during his four days at Guantanamo Bay and brings his experience to the public eye.
The film is seven hours of raw and grainy surveillance footage of Canadian Secret Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents interrogating Khadr at Guantanamo, along with interviews from those close to Khadr and involved with his case.
Although Khadr is a Canadian citizen and detainee, the nature of his crimes and the fact that Guantanamo remains open makes this film a concern regarding both American and Canadian politics.
“Very few Americans have witnessed interrogation footage from Guantanamo,” Shilina-Conte said. “The film comes as a revelation and provides poignant insight into the plight of one among many prisoners held in the infamous prison. The film, [along with] the lecture by professor [at York University] Brenda Longfellow, provoked a thoughtful and meaningful exchange on political relations between Canada and the United States and the world at large.”
In terms of current events, Khadr was recently repatriated to Canada last September. His stay at Guantanamo lasted 10 years. He now faces an eight-year confinement sentence in Canada.
Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured after a U.S. military attack on a terrorist compound in Afghanistan. His role at the camp was unclear during and after his capture, but it is speculated that his father, who had alleged connections with Al-Qaeda, placed him there as a non-militant translator.
As the only survivor of the attack, Khadr was accused of killing a U.S. soldier and sent to the U.S. Armed Forces’ Bagram Detention Facility before his transfer to Guantanamo Bay.
In the attack, Khadr suffered injuries that left his vision damaged and his limbs severely debilitated from several gun shot wounds and explosions.
After barely surviving, Khadr was mentally and physically tortured at Bagram without the presence of any legal counsel or conclusive evidence towards a conviction for the crimes he had been accused of.
You Don’t Like The Truth focuses on the interrogation of 16-year-old Khadr at Guantanamo and brings to light the violations of international law that kept him unlawfully detained and treated at the prison.
The four days of interrogation footage are divided and titled within the film to show a decline in Khadr’s mental state and hopeless situation: “Day 1: Hope,” “Day 2: Fallout,” “Day 3: Blackmail” and “Day 4: Failure.”
In the film, Khadr’s first reaction to the Canadian agents’ arrival was one of joy and hope – a chance to get out. As he soon realized the agents were not there to bring him home, but rather to work against him, Khadr fell deeper into a black hole of legal uncertainty and hopeless existence at the prison.
The title of the film is a quote taken from Khadr, as he went back and forth with the CSIS agents while he tried to claim his innocence – a stance he maintained until 2010 when he finally accepted a plea bargain that brought him home to a Canadian prison. Now Khadr, 26, faces up to eight years with a chance of parole in 2013.
Longfellow held a lecture directly following the film screening, “Complex Regimes of Truth: Surveillance and Affect,” which directly coincided with the film.
“The film is really about demanding that the Canadian government lives up to international law,” Longfellow said. “What happens to human rights and democracy where you have a system that says, ‘You are a citizen, but I’m going to deprive you of your rights of citizenship?’ The Canadian government did nothing about this.”
Longfellow’s lecture went into depth on conceptual ideas of the filmmaking process and the ideas expressed in the film. After Longfellow spoke, the floor was open for students to ask questions and talk about their reactions.
Many were intrigued simply by camera angles and framing, while others searched for answers to the film’s purpose in serving a modern audience that may have never seen a documentary of its kind.
“The thing that made me most mad, although I’m an avid supporter of Barack Obama, is that he said he was going to shut [Guantanamo] down, and he still hasn’t,” said Corey Rosen, a sophomore communication and film studies major. “I think it’s important, especially for young people my age, to know more about this.”