Guantanamo: Blacked Out Bay

2014, Politics  -  27 min Leave a Comment
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3 min read

Vice News reporter Gianna Toboni is granted a rare tour of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center (GTMO) in Cuba, offering a look inside the most notorious prison in the world. Intended to home the greatest active terrorist threats, it is instead known for imprisoning foreigners at random and subjecting them to dehumanizing conditions.

Toboni and crew are escorted to the prison for an official media tour as the rules for filming are explained. Certain elements, such as names, faces, and certain rooms, must be obscured or avoided to prevent information about the prison from leaking. Toboni first meets with the prison's Cultural Advisor, who is surprisingly open about the frighteningly lax nature of admission to GTMO. "Anyone can wind up here," he states.

The tour begins at Camp X-Ray, which was home to the first twenty detainees to ever enter the prison. The outdoor cells exposed inmates to extreme heat and sun, and provided only funneled pipes as makeshift latrines. Ushered through various cell blocks, we are then shown the force-feeding area where those on hunger strike are given nutrients against their will. Although the regulations at Guantanamo have relaxed enough to allow a media tour, there is still strict oversight by prison officials. When interview questions diverge too far from the topic of the cell blocks themselves the tour is shut down and the film crew asked to leave.

Finding herself faced with more questions than answers, Toboni seeks out a former detainee as well as a former guard in order to obtain personal perspectives on life at GTMO. Mustafa Ait Idir agrees to share his story, detailing his experience when, despite being acquitted of the charges against him, he was transferred to Guantanamo anyway. Idir recounts his first days of detention, forced to lie naked on cement ground and endure other humiliations. Terry Holdbrooks tells of his transition from prison guard to anti-GTMO activist after bearing witness to the violent and demeaning tactics used against prisoners. Holdbrooks' mission since leaving his post is to see the center closed for good.

Guantanamo: Blacked Out Bay addresses a heavy topic with an air of humor while maintaining a tone of respect for those working in the interest of national security as well as those wrongly imprisoned who have become collateral damage in the war on terror. Although promises have been made to close the center, viewers are left wondering if there will ever be an end date in sight.