The Road to Guantánamo Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross

Recent news of the suicides of three detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo, Cuba, generated a freshly appalling spin by the American government and its friends in the media: the suicides were a PR stunt, an act of terrorism, an attempted uprising gone wrong. In short, they were anything but the foreseeable result of what can happen when men who’ve been detained without charge, shipped thousands of miles from home, isolated, deprived and abused finally succumb to desperation. In that light, the three friends who are the subject of this docu-drama by Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24-Hour Party People) might have gotten away easy.

Road to Guantánamo chronicles the terrible misadventures of the so-called "Tipton Three”: young Muslim Brits who, en route to a wedding in Pakistan, took a side trip to Afghanistan to provide what they maintain was "humanitarian assistance.” Unable to do anything in the chaos when U.S. bombing began, they left Kabul but were swept up by the Northern Alliance, who turned them over to the U.S. as alleged Taliban fighters. Part documentary, part dramatisation, the film portrays their mistreatment over the ensuing two years in Guantánamo: forbidden to sleep, talk, or pray, terrorised by dogs, locked in solitary isolation for months at a stretch, subjected to sensory assaults with strobe lights and blasting death metal, the Tipton Three were interrogated countless times (including by a U.S. officer posing as British in an attempt to gain confidence) but were never charged with any offence.

Even after the US military admitted their mistake, the three were held for another three months before finally being sent back to the UK, where they were released without explanation or apology. (Of the 750-plus detainees taken to Guantánamo, only ten have been charged; 490 remain to this day.)

A gripping and unsentimental indictment of America’s ongoing abuses, The Road to Guantánamo is an important documentary that succeeds where the mainstream American media is apparently quite happy to fail: in telling the truth, optics be damned. (Alliance Atlantis)