If the truth be told . . .

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY


Di­rected by Ashish Gha­di­ali. Fea­tur­ing Moaz­zam Begg. Club, se­lect re­lease, 96mins What should we make of Moaz­zam Begg, a for­mer Bri­tish de­tainee at Ba­gram In­tern­ment Fa­cil­ity and later, Guan­tanamo Bay?

The Birm­ing­ham-born and raised Pak­istani grew up in a mid­dle-class fam­ily with a car­ing dad. He at­tended a nice Jewish school. And some­where along the way, he be­came a dan­ger­ous Is­lamic rad­i­cal with shad­owy links to global ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions: the Bos­nian Mu­jahideen, the Chech­nya Mu­ja­hadeen and the Afghanistan Tal­iban.

Or maybe that’s just what the Bri­tish state wants you to be­lieve. Af­ter all, Begg has never been con­victed of any crim­i­nal, let alone a ter­ror­ist, act. In­deed, then US pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush re­leased Begg from Guan­tanamo with­out charge as long ago as Jan­uary 2005.

Tak­ing cues from Er­rol Mor­ris’ war-on-ter­ror docs, no­tably The Fog of War and Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dure, Ashish Ghadali’s riv­et­ing doc­u­men­tary takes the form of an ex­ten­sive in­ter­view. Speak­ing calmly and qui­etly, Begg ex­plains his per­sonal his­tory, his com­pli­cated al­le­giances and the events lead­ing up to his forced confession (stat­ing that he was a mem­ber of al-Qaeda ).

He had not, he ex­plains, “seen day­light for more than a year”.

Begg, an ar­tic­u­late, mea­sured man, never sounds any­thing but per­fectly rea­son­able: he went to Afghanistan to live un­der the Tal­iban but not join them. Hav­ing fled to Pak­istan, he crossed back into Afghanistan as there was nowhere one could buy things. It’s a com­pli­cated story, made all the more cir­cuitous by Begg’sown views. He be­lieves, si­mul­ta­ne­ously, in mul­ti­cul­tural Bri­tain and ji­had.

Di­rec­tor Ashish Gha­di­ali is pre­pared to ques­tion his sub­ject: “You weren’t just go­ing to Turkey to sit on the beach,” he in­ter­jects, dur­ing Begg’s ac­count of trav­el­ling to­ward Chech­nya.

Yet the film­maker skil­fully avoids any moral pro­nounce­ments. Begg may be a stitched-up fam­ily man with a pas­sion­ate in­ter­est in global op­pres­sion. He may be a fa­natic who has been in­creas­ingly rad­i­calised by the mis­treat­ment and mis­un­der­stand­ing of Is­lam in the post-9/11 world. He may even be all of these things.

His story: Moaz­zam Begg in The Confession: Liv­ing the War on Ter­ror

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