Published Mar 29, 2012Noting the obvious do-gooder idealist slant ubiquitous in the media and polite social circles when it comes to controversial issues of human rights in sticky situations, Thomas Wallner's Guantanamo Trap attempts to step outside of the spectrum of political issues as sounding boards for personal, sanctimonious morality. He interviews subjects on both sides of the Guantanamo Bay controversy, giving them protracted opportunity to voice their assessment and perspective on the situation, only to inevitably edit in some smug parallels in an effort to construct a greater theme at the expense of patronizing his subjects.
The most prominent figures in this engrossing and well-paced documentary are Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz and staff judge advocate for the Guantanamo Joint Task Force Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver. Kurnaz's profession of innocence and detailed experiences of being interrogated and isolated in the notorious prison isolated for years are juxtaposed with Beaver's experience as an American soldier fighting the war on terror in an interrogation capacity, authoring a legal memorandum that stripped civil liberties from inmates in a roundabout avoidance of inflicting torture, by definition.
Other subjects include opportunist Spanish lawyer Gonzalo Boye, whose attempts to bring Kurnaz justice, or his day in court, or whatever, tie these stories together with the low-ranking Matt Diaz, who decided to release the names of the Guantanamo detainees to the impractical, but culturally viable Barbara Olshansky.
Everyone is painted as a victim of sorts, given the confessional nature of the doc and human nature itself, which leads us back to the title and Wallner's central conceit. Within the film, he occasionally turns his focus to his subjects' hypocrisy, by dwelling on Beaver's shortcomings as a dog owner, as juxtaposed against her desires to open a doggy day care. Similarly, he mirrors a chat between Murnoz and Boye about the horrors of torture with their casual spectatorship of a barbaric bullfight.
It's a clever decision on his part ― tying things together by highlighting the discrepancies between words and actions ― but it's at the expense of his template of objectivity (objectivity being impossible to capture in a filmed format, but that's another argument entirely).
What's more interesting than this artificial didactics are the many self-righteous speeches about justice, which are mirrored by a court scene where a smug lawyer flat-out ignores everything Beaver says on the stand for the sake of manipulating her words into serving his purpose. But, hey, he didn't strip her nude and exploit her fears while doing so, which makes it okay. (Kinosmith)