We Are Not Ghouls | Review | DOC NYC 2022


Tales of injustice are a by-product of a system built by people drunk on power and ignorance. Guantanamo Bay opened over 20 years ago in January 2002 and has been the torture chamber of 780 people in the decades since. We Are Not Ghouls tells the story of one of them, Binyam Mohamed, who spent five years in Gitmo, charged with conspiracy. 

Wishing to break down the harm done by the system, director Chris James Thomspon takes a unique approach to his subject, making a haunting 94-minute piece that is keen to evoke the horror of the situation. Many elements are typical of the genre, but there's a homemade aesthetic to it that feels authentic instead of artificial. These stories often get caught up in the technicalities and forget they are telling a human's truth, but Thompson manages to stay steadfast to humanity throughout. It's a painfully familiar story, and there are many more to tell - as demonstrated by Kevin Macdonald's 2021 film The Mauritanian - we are only just becoming aware of the horrors that persisted for so long.

Yvonne Bradley is the central contributor, telling the story from her perspective as a JAG Attorney in Binyam's case. Secondary to her is Clive Stafford Smith, who is renowned for his work in Guantanamo cases, something he is still doing in this present moment to bring his clients home. Yvonne takes us through her perspective as an attorney, coming to terms with her belief system clashing with the reality of what was happening to Binyam. Her lens is fantastic for people unfamiliar with stories of this kind because she is both a compelling person and storyteller, and Thompson captures that energy magnificently. 

The film is not only interested in the atrocities of the case but also the aftermath of the horror and what that does to people like Binyam, who have been permanently altered by the actions. How do you return home after such trauma has been inflicted upon you? How do you live a life of peace in the constant shadow of something that should have never happened?

Both heartbreaking and informative, We Are Not Ghouls reaches beyond being another story of injustice by having a heart for the subject. 

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