THE CONFESSION: LIVING THE WAR ON TERROR (UK/TBC/96mins)
Directed by Ashish Ghadiali.
THE PLOT: British Muslim Moazzam Begg spent two years detained in Guantanamo Bay before being released without charge. For the first time and in great detail, Begg tells his story to filmmaker Ashish Ghadiali.
THE VERDICT: The story of Moazzam Begg is an interesting one, and as the documentary unfolds, the parallels between Begg’s life and the lives of Muslims around the world become clear. What does not become clear however, is how this articulate, smart, outspoken and charming figure could not see that his actions and movements have led to a light being shone upon him, and just how he is rather emotionless about the ordeal he talks about throughout the film.
Begg begins his story with a familiar tale; one of a second generation English Pakistani man trying to find where he belongs in the world. Is he British? Pakistani? Muslim? Asian? This topic has been covered numerous times in cinema over the years – a particular standout being ‘La Haine’ – but what we have not seen before is a man believing all his questions are answered through Islam, and his choice to travel to some of the most dangerous areas of the world.
What becomes clear throughout ‘The Confession: Living the War on Terror’, is how smart and self censored Begg appears to be. There is very little emotion from this central interviewee as he tells his story about mistreatment and detention for what he believes to be his faith and the way he looks. As well as this, it seems as though Begg is telling only one side of the story, and while this may be his story, he gets off rather lightly from filmmaker Ashish Ghadiali, who seems sceptical once or twice, but never really pushes any line of questioning.
There are interesting questions raised about choices made by Western powers in the past, and how these choices have influenced not only the West but the Middle East as well, but these are never truly answered – other than by Begg – so there are times when the film feels unsatisfying; there is only one side of the story here, not an engaging and rounded discussion. As well as this, there are times when the film is badly paced at times, and the thread that holds the film together often seems to disappear completely.
In all, Moazzam Begg is an interesting interviewee, but it seems that director Ashish Ghadiali often lets him away too lightly with his line of questioning. There are some interesting issues raised throughout the film, but without a rounded discussion, the audience never gets what feels close to the real story.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    With ISIS still on the warpath in the Middle East and also invoking terror in European cities like Paris and Nice, the world is changing again. The seeds to this can be found in the testimony of one man, Moazzam Begg. A British Muslim and Birmingham native, he found himself subject to the scrutiny of the British and US Governments over 15 years.

    Raised as a Jew in Birmingham, he found himself accepting the multi-cultural nature of his community before moving on to embrace Islam. He was questioned by Government operatives simply because he was Muslim. He had the ability to enter conflict zones unafraid of the potentially life-threatening circumstances. First he identified with Muslims caught up in the Bosnian conflict, where he saw first hand the results of ethnic cleansing. Later on, he moved his family to Afghanistan, where he both hated and admired the Taliban, or at least some aspects of their ideology. Fleeing US bombings in the wake of 9/11, he moved to Islamabad, Pakistan. Not long after, he was detained by the US Government for being an Al Queda operative and sent packing to Guantanamo Bay…

    In the opening titles of Ashish Ghadiali’s probing documentary film, it’s stated that despite being detained and imprisoned several times, Begg has never been convicted of a crime. Knowing that early on makes for an intriguing, engaging watch as we sympathise with Begg but also have to question his motivations. Speaking quietly, eloquently but persuasively with the camera occasionally at different angles, we’re never quite sure what to make of this man.

    He doesn’t come across as a liar or a manipulator, but he is selective about which truths to reveal. Occasionally, the offscreen interviewer prompts him to fill in the missing gaps in his fasincating life story. There’s a sense of Begg shifting audience loyalties at times, like when he says that he agrees with some aspects of Al-Queda’s ideology, but not their targeting of civilians. The confession itself is that he was a member. But he also makes some very strong, persuasive arguments about the treatment of detainees like himself, who just happened to be there, observing rather than participating in terrorist acts. Should there be a distinction between the two though?

    Ghadiali has found a fascinating interview subject in Begg. The interrogation-style interview with Begg feels direct and grabs you early on, right through to the end. By then, Begg says that it’s possible to be British and Muslim at the same time. True, but which part does he connect with more – culture or ideology? A thought-provoking dissection on the nature of identity in our troubled times, The Confession: Living The War On Terror comes highly recommended. ****