The new documentary You Don’t Like the Truth — which premiered last week at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal and will premiere in Toronto on Oct. 29 — is built around a videotape taken in 2003.
The tape shows a then-16-year-old Omar Khadr being interrogated in his cell at Guantanamo Bay by agents of CSIS.
“We’d always been interested in Khadr’s story, but we hadn’t thought of making a film about it,” says the film’s co-director, Luc Cote, who developed the project with Patricio Henriquez over a period of two years.
“The release of that footage in 2008 was really the trigger: we saw a clip on TV, and we thought it was incredible and terrible at the same time.”
As Cote suggests, the footage in You Don’t Like the Truth is both literally and figuratively hard to watch: the grainy, degraded surveillance tape and muffled audio put Khadr’s anxiety into sharp relief. The clips are interspersed with interviews with Khadr’s lawyer and family members, as well as former cellmates and American military personnel. These testimonies interweave to suggest the Toronto-born teen, who has since pleaded guilty to throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier, received questionable treatment not only from his U.S. captors but also his countrymen — a passage where Khadr’s claim of being tortured is summarily dismissed is simply painful.
The film’s impact on Khadr’s legal fate may be considerable: Cote and Henriquez were asked if it could be shown as part of his lawyer’s final arguments. Cote says he was pleased by the request — “if this was the only showing, then it would have made the film worth doing” — but implies that You Don’t Like The Truth does more than shed light on one individual’s experience.
“Let’s not forget that [this footage] is all we’ve really seen from Guantanamo in nine years,” he says. “What we see all the time on the news is like a guided tour for journalists.”