Four Days Inside Guantanamo is a harrowing documentary by Luc Cote and Patricio Hernandez which combines grainy interrogation video footage (recently declassified and released by the Canadian courts) with interviews from experts and involved parties to tell the sad story of Omar Khadr, a 15-year old Canadian citizen captured and detained on suspicion of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan – the first child soldier ever to be charged with war crimes.
Despite being fundamentally illegal (no formal charge or right to habeas corpus), the interrogation in Guantanamo in 2003 was carried out by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in participation with the US and was designed to entice Khadr to confess to a crime he may not have committed (Khabr was eventually sentenced to eight further years imprisonment in 2010). Cote and Hernandez structure the material into four daily chapters entitled Hope, Fallout, Blackmail, Failure, which accurately sum up the arc of his experience, and within capture the insidious psychological torture visited upon the young man following his prior ordeals in the harsh light of the suspicion and unconstitutional activity that flowered in the wake of 9/11. As Gar Pardy, former Director General of Canadian Consular Affairs observes, this process was simply an extension of the physical torture he’d already been subjected to.
Above and beyond the politics of the situation resonates the human tragedy at the heart of the story. Khadr was a child who had experienced a peripatetic upbringing, and found himself in a hugely difficult situation, firstly in Afghanistan (where he been taken by his alleged extremist father, who is not blameless in this), then in the US detention facility at Bagram Air Base, and finally in the interrogation cell. The overwhelming sense of injustice is compounded by the brave, dogged manner with whch Khadr conducts himself, while the dispassionate gaze of the surveillance cameras makes proceedings all the more disturbing. The interviewees collected by Cote and Hernandez provide important context and information to underline that these events are a serious abuse of human rights, while particular displeasure is aimed at the Canadian government (in particular Prime Minister Stephen Harper) who did not adequately step up to protect its own citizen.
Although focusing primarily on Khadr, the filmmakers also highlight a Willy Loman-esque desperation in the interrogators to get the answers they want, simply to prove that they are doing their job; a point that further underlines the banality of such monstrous activity. At the end of each day, they simply get up and leave Khadr in a state of despair to to go back to their families. While lives are being destroyed and civil liberties upended, it’s just a job for them.
Four Days Inside Guantanamo is an important, incendiary documentary that will leave you furious at the inhumane treatment meted out to such a young person, and serves as a timely, chilling reminder of the arrogance and discrimination that prevailed under the Bush administration in the ‘War on Terror’. The haunting image of an emotionally crushed Khadr, isolated in the iconic orange jumpsuit rendered blurry and abstract by the surveillance videotape, will stay with you for a long time; a child abandoned by his country in a climate of fear. Essential viewing.
Four Days Inside Guantanamo is released by Dogwoof and in cinemas on 7 October 2011.