“‘Outside the Law’ is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten.”
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK
“[T]his is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out
About the film
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a documentary film, directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, telling the story of Guantánamo (and including sections on extraordinary rendition and secret prisons) with a particular focus on how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws, how prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening (and often for bounty payments), and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism (as missionaries or humanitarian aid workers, for example).
The film is based around interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes, who was released in December 2007), lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, Shakeel Begg, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
Focusing on the stories of three particular prisoners — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and that the Bush administration was justified in responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by holding men neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects with habeas corpus rights, but as “illegal enemy combatants” with no rights whatsoever.
The film was launched on Wednesday October 21, 2009 to a packed house at the Cochrane Theatre, Southampton Row, London WC1, and was followed by a Q&A session with former prisoners Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes, and co-directors Andy Worthington and Polly Nash. The launch was in association with Cageprisoners and the Guantánamo Justice Centre (also see here). See here for photos from the launch, and see here for videos of the Q&A session that followed the launch.
From November 4 to November 13, 2009, Andy Worthington visited the United States to launch the film, with screenings at Soho House, New York, sponsored by the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law; Alwan for the Arts, New York (with special guest Tina Foster of the International Justice Network, involved in Bagram habeas litigation), in an event sponsored by Alwan for the Arts and The World Can’t Wait; Fairfax, Virginia, sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation; the New America Foundation, Washington, D.C. (with special guests, attorneys Tom Wilner and David Cynamon, and moderator Peter Bergen), in an event that was sponsored by the New America Foundation; in Berkeley, California, sponsored by The World Can’t Wait; and at the University of San Francisco School of Law. Andy’s visit to the US was sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation and The World Can’t Wait. Reports on the trip are available here and here, and a video of Andy’s talk before the FFF event in Fairfax, Virginia is here.
On Sunday November 22, a second London screening took place at the Prince Charles Cinema, off Leicester Square, following by a Q&A session with Omar Deghayes, Andy Worthington and Polly Nash. This was a double bill with “Gitmo: The New Rules of War” (2005), and the event was organized by Dochouse, based at Riverside Studios, which was formed to support and promote documentary in the UK, and, since 2002, has been showcasing the best documentary films from around the globe, with screenings and events in cinemas across London.
From February 5 to February 7, 2010, Polly Nash and Andy Worthington travelled to Norway, where the film was screened as part of the Human Rights, Human Wrongs Film Festival, at the Parkteatret, Oslo. Also see here, and see here for a report on the festival.
Throughout 2010, Omar Deghayes and Andy Worthington (with occasional appearances by Polly Nash and other speakers, including Moazzam Begg) took the film on an extensive UK tour that ended up with 35 separate screenings between February and December. Further details can be found here, on a dedicated page that was updated when new screenings were added.
Screenings included: Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre, London, on February 16 (see report here); the BFI, on London’s South Bank, on February 27 and the LSE, London on March 1 ( see report here); Oxford Brookes University on March 5 (see report here); Bradford Playhouse on March 9 and Norwich on March 10 (see report here); SOAS, London on March 16; UCL, London on March 17; the University of Kent on March 18 (see report here); the Universities of Dundee and Aberdeen on March 22 and March 23; Edinburgh on March 24; Glasgow on March 25 (see report here); London South Bank University on March 29; the University of Nottingham on March 31; the London International Documentary Festival on April 26 (see report here); the University of Essex (Colchester) on April 27; Aston University on May 4 and Birmingham International Film Society on May 5 (see report here); Newcastle University on May 11; Christ Church College, Oxford on May 21; The Broca coffee shop, London on May 27; the University of Sussex on May 28; Under the Bridge music studio, Brighton on May 29; Birkbeck College, London on June 2; and Roehampton University (in a screening for US Fulbright students) on July 9.
Autumn screenings began on Sunday September 12 at the Renoir Cinema, London and in Malvern on October 19 (see report here), and there were further dates in November and December in Oxford, London (three screenings, including “A Day for Shaker Aamer” at Battersea Arts Centre) and Sheffield.
Also in October, Andy Worthington visited the US again, as a guest of The World Can’t Wait, showing the film as part of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, a week of events dedicated to raising awareness of the need to hold senior Bush administration officials and lawyers accountable for their crimes.
In the second week of January, Andy Worthington visited the US again, as a guest of The World Can’t Wait (with support from Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights), showing the film at Revolution Books in New York on January 7, with special guest Scott Horton (law professor and columnist for Harper’s Magazine), and showing excerpts at a panel discussion at American University Washington School of Law in Washington D.C. on January 12, with special guests Professor Juan Méndez, the new UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Leili Kashani of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Frida Berrigan of Witness Against Torture.
From February 1 to 5, the film was on tour in Poland, with Andy Worthington attending all five screenings, and Moazzam Begg attending the first two, in Warszawa on February 1, and in Łódź on February 2. See the report here.
UK dates for 2011, most of which were screenings for Amnesty International student groups, as part of a tour supported by Amnesty International UK, can be found here. They included several screenings in London (LSE, King’s College, SOAS, the Institute of Education and Middlesex, plus the Wandsworth group) and also in Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Leicester, Hull, York and Aberdeen. There was also a very well-attended screening for the Amnesty group in Bishops Castle, Shropshire, and a Stop the War screening in Cardiff . The film was also featured in the D.C. Independent Film Festival on March 5, 2011, in the Bradford International Film Festival on March 26 and 27, and in the Open City London Documentary Festival on June 19, and just two days later, on June 21, Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion) arranged a screening in the House of Commons.
This year was busy, and very international, with screenings attended by Andy Worthington in Washington D.C. and Chicago, to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on January 11, and a screening at the European Parliament in Brussels, attended by Andy, Poly and Moazzam Begg, and supported by three excellent MEPs, Jean Lambert, Sarah Ludford and Ana Gomes. In February, Andy traveled to Kuwait to support the efforts to secure the release of the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantánamo, working with lawyers, and the men’s families, and taking part in a discussion on Kuwaiti TV (the Al-Rai channel) with Tom Wilner, in which excerpts of the film, subtitled into Arabic, were broadcast for the very first time. Please note that the Arabic subtitled version of the film is available for broadcast or screenings throughout the Arabic-speaking world, and, as above, for further information, please contact Andy Worthington or Polly Nash.
Screenings also took place in the UK, beginning with an Amnesty student event at Queen Mary University of London in February, and continuing with a UCL Stop the War screening and a Student Law Society/Amnesty International event at the University of Hertfordshire in March. In October, another screening took place in Lewes with the MPs Caroline Lucas and Norman Baker, and the former prisoner Omar Deghayes, and at all these events there was a focus on the campaign to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, and an e-petition to the British government, which needed to secure 100,000 signatures to be eligible for a debate in Parliament. This target was achieved, and a backbench debate took place in Westminster Hall, but Shaker is still held.
See my archive of articles about Shaker here, which covers the campaigning for his release that has carried on throughout 2013 and 2014, including a day for Shaker in Battersea in November 2013, and a screening of “Outside the Law” in Canterbury, also in November 2013, and Shaker’s immensely eloquent contributions to the accounts that emerged from Guantánamo during the prison-wide hunger strike in 2013. In November 2014, I launched a new campaign, We Stand With Shaker, with an activist friend, Joanne MacInnes, which secured high-profile support from MPs, celebrities and the media, and in March 2015 there was a screening at the Deptford Cinema, a new co-operative venture near my home in south east London.
Andy Worthington is an investigative journalist, and the author of three books, including The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (Pluto Press). In the last seven years, he has worked with the United Nations, WikiLeaks, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, Cageprisoners and Reprieve. He also runs the “Close Guantánamo” campaign and website, founded in January 2012 with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Visit his website here.
Polly Nash is a lecturer at the London College Of Communication (LCC), part of the University of the Arts, London, and has worked in film and TV for 20 years. Core funding for the film was provided by LCC.
Spectacle is an independent television production company specializing in documentary, community-led investigative journalism and participatory media. Spectacle programs have been broadcast across Europe, Australia and Canada and have won international awards. Visit their website here.
For excerpts and extras, follow the links on the Spectacle website, and below, on YouTube, you can watch the first five minutes of the film via Journeyman Pictures, from whom you can also buy the film on DVD:
“’Outside the Law’ is essential viewing for anyone interested in Guantánamo and other prisons. The film explores what happens when a nation with a reputation for morality and justice acts out of impulse and fear. To my mind, Andy Worthington is a quintessential force for all things related to the journalism of GTMO and its inhabitants. As a military lawyer for Fayiz al-Kandari, I am constantly reminded that GTMO is ongoing and that people still have an opportunity to make history today by becoming involved. ‘Outside the Law’ is a fantastic entry point into the arena that is GTMO.”
Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, military defense attorney for Guantánamo prisoner Fayiz al-Kandari
“Every American needs to watch this film. Or at least every mouthpiece in the corporate media. They should broadcast this instead of the WWII Holocaust documentaries, which play on rotation on the cable networks.”
Alexa O’Brien, journalist, WL Central
“I thought the film was absolutely brilliant and the most powerful, moving and hard-hitting piece I have seen at the cinema. I admire and congratulate you for your vital work, pioneering the truth and demanding that people sit up and take notice of the outrageous human rights injustices perpetrated against detainees at Guantánamo and other prisons.”
Harriet Wong, Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture
“[T]hought-provoking, harrowing, emotional to watch, touching and politically powerful.”
Harpymarx, UK blogger
“Last Saturday I went to see Polly Nash and Andy Worthington’s harrowing documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at London’s BFI. The film knits together narratives so heart-wrenching I half wish I had not heard them. Yet the camaraderie between the detainees and occasional humorous anecdotes … provide a glimpse into the wit, courage and normalcy of the men we are encouraged to perceive as monsters.”
Sarah Gillespie, singer/songwriter
“The film was great — not because I was in it, but because it told the legal and human story of Guantánamo more clearly than anything I have seen.”
Tom Wilner, US attorney who represented the Guantánamo prisoners before the US Supreme Court
“The film was fantastic! It has the unique ability of humanizing those who were detained at Guantánamo like no other I have seen.”
Sari Gelzer, Truthout
“Engaging and moving, and personal. The first [film] to really take you through the lives of the men from their own eyes.”
Debra Sweet, The World Can’t Wait
“I am part of a community of folks from the US who attempted to visit the Guantánamo prison in December 2005, and ended up fasting for a number of days outside the gates. We went then, and we continue our work now, because we heard the cries for justice from within the prison walls. As we gathered tonight as a community, we watched “Outside the Law,” and by the end, we all sat silent, many with tears in our eyes and on our faces. I have so much I’d like to say, but for now I wanted to write a quick note to say how grateful we are that you are out, and that you are speaking out with such profound humanity. I am only sorry what we can do is so little, and that so many remain in the prison.”
Matt Daloisio, Witness Against Torture
A very good film. I can’t say I loved it, but only because of the subject matter. Having widely read your site, there wasn’t much new information to me, so I’m definitely not a typical viewer. I can only imagine how a neophyte would react to all this info for the first time presented this way. I can say that this film had to be made. Visuals and people are vital storytelling tools. In an interview I read with Clive, the true fact was highlighted that the story needs a face, a person, to reach more people. Omar, Moazzam, Binyam and Shaker’s stories make this film powerful. In particular, Omar’s last scene struck me. I don’t know about in Britain, but my experience previous to lots of reading was that I’d heard of Binyam because of the specific torture he received and heard of Moazzam because of the Amnesty International dust-up. That’s tragic. Keep showing this film!
Norwegian Shooter, US blogger
Comments after the UK launch
“The film was brilliantly powerful — both understated and shocking. All night I have had the images in my head and thoughts of these men who, even when released, can’t contact their families. I hate to admit I had no idea about extraordinary rendition — you have lifted the lid on a world that far too many people, like myself, find too easy to avoid.”
“I have just returned from a rather extraordinary evening. I attended the film premiere of Andy Worthington and Polly Nash’s film “Outside the Law” — a feature length documentary about Guantánamo. I urge you all to see it. Please do and then when you have seen it pass it on to your friends and family. I have not seen anything at all that compares to understanding the magnitude of what has been happening in Guantánamo and Bagram. After seeing this film and then staying for the Q&A, which featured the film makers, as well as former detainees Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg, I was moved, inspired and angered beyond any other event I have been to. People left the venue with changed opinions, far better informed and shocked. Once again please do try and get to a screening.”
Saleyha Ahsan, journalist and filmmaker
“The film was intense and powerful, mostly because it did not attempt in any way to emotionalise the story it was laying out before us. [Andy] Worthington, Clive Stafford Smith and others simply told the story of how the US abandoned habeas corpus and found itself in a kind of war with its own legal system, whilst [Moazzam] Begg and [Omar] Deghayes told the tale of what it was like to be on the receiving end of this historic aberration of justice.”
The Osterley Times
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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