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Human Rights Watch Film Fest 2015: Uyghurs, Prisoners of the Absurd


As US forces inhabit Afghanistan in October of 2001 in search of their enemy number one Osama Bin Laden, the US military starts bombarding the country with flyers from planes above promising riches beyond compare for the information/capture of Taliban terrorists. For 22 members of China’s Uyghur minority that just happen to be living in the country after fleeing oppression in their native land, this turns out to be a disastrous turn of events. The Turkish-speaking Muslims are sold to US forces under false accusations and propaganda where they become some of the first accused terrorists illegally detained at Guantanamo Bay.

Patricio Henríquez’s film focuses on three of these Uyghur men through the course of the film and their stories of survival are examined. Each man is shown to be clearly innocent of the charges and the victims of a corrupt system. But as fascinating a story as the detainment and eventual release of these men may be, in the context of a film the subject misses the mark. Henriquez makes the story of these men the center of the documentary, as they well should, but does little with the surroundings of their stories and seems content to follow the basic outline of the traditional ‘talking heads’ documentary style.

The resulting film relies on only the stories to draw any interest and drags out the content to fill out a feature running time leading to quite a few dry spots throughout the film. While the story of the Uyghurs detained in Guantanamo is a compelling tale, and for that the film should be seen, the experience of watching this film will prove trying to even the most patient of audiences.

Uyghurs, Prisoners of the Absurd plays March 26th at 6pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox


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