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In The Road to Guantanamo, codirectors Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross recount the true story of four British Muslim men who go to Pakistan for a wedding and end up in Cuba as tortured prisoners of the U.S. government. This powerful docudrama masterfully combines edge-of-your-seat storytelling (the spectacular early scenes were filmed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran) with the sickening realism of torture in a military prison. At the same time, the film avoids simple sensationalism and the demonization of individual soldiers, instead leaving Bush, Blair, and Rumsfeld holding the buck for blatantly trampling all over the Geneva Convention and denying prisoners their most fundamental human rights. In Camp X-Ray, which is the first holding block for detainees, the men are locked in open-air cells resembling dog kennels. Not allowed to talk to one another, exercise, touch the wire of their cages, or protect themselves from the hot sun, they are woken up every hour for a head count. They are interrogated by CIA, FBI, and military personnel, and beaten in order to extract confessions stating that they are al-Qaeda fighters. The most diabolical of all the tortures consists of their being tied up in stress positions to the floors of their cells while they are blasted with ear-splitting music. The directors never hide their political intentions, but they have responded to critics who have called the film a work of propaganda by stating that they were not making a piece of investigative journalism, but simply wanted to tell this gripping story from the point of view of those who lived through it.
Michael Winterbottom was born in Blackburn, England, in 1961. His film credits include Butterfly Kiss (1994) and Go Now (1995), the latter of which won Winterbottom his second Prix Europa. Jude (1995) premiered at the Cannes Film Festival Director's Fortnight, won the Michael Powell Award for Best Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and won the Golden Hitchcock Award at the Dinard Film Festival. Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo was in competition at Cannes in 1996, while I Want You (1997) competed at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1998. These were followed by With or Without You and Wonderland, the latter of which was selected for competition at Cannes and Edinburgh in 1999 and won the British Independence Film Award for Best Film. 2001's The Claim was followed by a return to official competition at Cannes in 2002 with 24 Hour Party People. The critically acclaimed In This World (2002) was the winner of the Golden Bear, the Ecumenical Jury Prize, and the Peace Prize at Berlin in 2003, which was the same year Winterbottom directed Code 46.
Mat Whitecross edited Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs (TFF 2005) and was 2nd unit director on Winterbottom's Code 46. His directorial credits include music videos for Asher D as well as a 2004 short titled Job Street.