Film

Film

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What thousands of Muslims in the U.S. were put through immediately after 9-11 was pure torture—yanked off the streets because of their religion or ethnic origin, held incommunicado, deprived of their constitutional rights for months on end. None of these estimated 5,000 was charged with terrorist activity. Now filmmakers Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse put a dozen of them through their paces in a beautiful, powerful, and moving interrogation that raises troubling questions about Attorney General John Ashcroft’s post-attack roundup. The documentary’s creative method, using a sparsely furnished room, extracts these nightmarish narratives (without the usual dollops of schmaltz) from people who, for the most part, are so religiously conservative they would be honored guests in the attorney general’s own church if only they didn’t follow the wrong god. The viewer occupies Torquemada’s seat. You watch upstanding immigrant Mohammed Irshaid enter the stage/set/cell and unconsciously put his hands behind his back before he recalls, “That’s when I was handcuffed.” The interviewer remains off-camera, and the filmmakers’ rough-hewn style cleverly conceals brilliant editing. A boom mic sweeping down on some of them could be Ashcroft performing a reverse rapture. Still, the filmmakers provide a happy ending: This interrogation ends with the entire “cast” eating potluck and chatting.

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