When three men at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo killed themselves last weekend, Colleen Graffy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, called the act "a good PR move to draw attention." Yes, most suicides are about drawing attention. . . as a result of despair, futility and hopelessness. The renewed focus on Guantanamo comes just two weeks before Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross's engrossing docu-drama "The Road to Guantanamo" opens in North American theaters. (It's also playing at the Human Rights Watch International Flm Festival, which I write about in an article in today's indieWIRE.)
U.S. distributor Roadside Attractions couldn't have found a better time to release the film, just as mainstream news outlets are finally getting the hint that Gitmo is a disaster and people are starting to wake up to the fact that the Bush Administration has a blatant disregard for human rights.
There is no way, of course, that Roadside could have planned for such events to take place, and I don't expect they'll try to overtly capitalize on them -- as that might seem crass -- but the fact is when horrible events happen in real life it's not exploitative for certain films to raise awareness about them: It's the whole point. That's why I try to cover the Human Rights Watch film festival every year. The films are urgent, important, relevant -- favorites this year include Dias de Santiago, Switch Off and Road to Guantanamo -- and the best ones have a power that transcends the screen and makes you want to run out and change the world.
During the Tribeca Film Festival, where Guantanamo had its U.S. premiere, I learned that one of the actors in the film has become a bit of a celebrity with a popular MySpace page -- go there and take a moment to listen to his popular indie rap "post 9/11 blues." It's catchy, wry and cynical. Here's the chorus:
"Everybody do the post 9-11 dance
Look scared and shake ya ass while the bombs go blast
Everybody shake your post 911 thong
So the dossier was wrong
Jack some oil drop a bomb
Sing a song sing a long
bush and blair in a tree
Shave your beard if your brown and you best salute the crown
Or they'll do you like Brazillians and shoot your ass down"