In this compelling docudrama by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, the ‘Tipton Three’ narrate their own experiences in America’s controversial offshore detention camp The Road To Guantánamo opens with archive footage of George W Bush, flanked by a stern-faced Tony Blair, declaring his certain knowledge that all the detainees held in Guantánamo are “bad people”. Everything that follows is designed to turn these words inside out, as three young British Muslims tell the story of how they came to be in US custody at Guantánamo for over two years, and discuss the Kafkaesque horrors that awaited them there, until finally they were released without charge or apology.
The title may evoke the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope ‘Road’ movies of the 1940s, travel-themed musical comedies with a vaguely racist depiction of non-Americans, but the exotic journey embarked upon by the so-called ‘Tipton Three’ was to take them into areas that were politically incorrect in an altogether different way. It would be easy to criticise The Road to Guantánamo for being one-sided (it is), and for failing to contextualise the conduct of the US (there is not even a passing mention of 9/11), but such objections miss the point.
Many times Bush, Blair and other politicians have used their considerable public platforms to present a similarly partisan, at times even subsequently discredited justification for different aspects of their ‘War on Terror’, including the unlimited detention without trial of men like the Tipton Three. The trio, and the more than 800 prisoners who remain at America’s Cuban base, were not able to communicate their version of events to a lawyer or judge, let alone to the outside world. The Road To Guantánamo gives them their day in court, and the story these “bad people” tell is one that well deserves a hearing.