Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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In short: Dramatized documentary about life in Guantanamo Bay, portraying how it must feel to be there, alone, on your own, without future prospects or even any future at all
I saw this film at the Rotterdam film festival 2013, in the Bright Future section. I booked tickets due to the fact that the theme intrigued me foremost, and also that we were advised that no real torture would be shown (I hate torture porn movies). I always wondered how I would behave in similar circumstances, regardless of being innocent (like here) or not so innocent.
It's a depressing concept to loose many years of your life for no reason. The film title told us upfront that his whole imprisonment added up to 5 years. The prisoner learned that fact only afterwards. For us viewers it was not obvious from the proceedings that it was that long. I can imagine that it is difficult to get the timing aspect across. Stretching the scenes is no solution, and I think that the current film length of 90 minutes cannot be extended much longer. The point is being made very well, and nothing more can be added to elaborate on the issue.
Particularly being alone all that time with no one to help you, is another aspect that would haunt me. And I can imagine that you cling to any friendly gesture, be it a "good cop", a friendly guard, or an unusual pet like the iguana that found its way into his cell. The treatment by prison staff is harsh and you feel yourself completely exposed to their whims as well as a set of rules we would deem as being arbitrary. The best example is when he was said to be released, dressed in civil clothes and even sitting in a helicopter to return to Germany, when suddenly he was hauled back in his prison cell. The reason they gave him was the "no pets allowed" rule, and he got a standing order to kill the iguana. The repercussions when he refused were severe.
This screening was the world premiere, and a considerable part of the cast was present. The main character was even present in duplicate, one in the form of the real Murat and one as the actor we saw on screen. The former (real) Murat is still involved in human rights issues within various organizations busy with torture etcetera. During the final Q&A there was a question from the audience how he could have survived that long. He replied that his religion was most important for him, and secondly that he was a young man who wanted to see his family again. He also added that the film showed only a single interrogator, but in reality it were more than a hundred different ones.
In addition to his stay in Guantanamo Bay we see flashbacks about his former life in Germany, and how he alienated himself from his parents and former friends by his engagement to be married with a woman from Afghanistan, and becoming a Muslim as a logical step in that direction. This background is a welcome addition to what we see happening during his imprisonment, offering us some relief, or some diversity in the story line if you want.
The fact that the story is confined to one single interrogator, though not fully reflecting reality, is an aspect that elevates this film above the dry and factual documentary. It is brought to us as a cat-and-mouse game between two opposing characters, and I consider this to be a perfect choice made by the filmmakers.