Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s 14 years in Guantanamo BayFebruary 10, 2021
“The Mauritanian,” a film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a Marine Corps. lawyer and Jodie Foster as a defence attorney will screen on Friday.
It is the story of a Mauritanian wrongly accused of participating in the 911 attacks in the US in 2001, spending 14 long years in prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.
His name is Mohamedou Ould Slahi and it was surely surprising for him when the authorities apprehended him for receiving a call from Osama Bin Laden’s satellite phone.
Out of Guantanamo, Mohamedou Ould Slahi spent his time writing a best-selling memoir which is now a movie.
According to director Kevin Macdonald, this is perhaps the first “mainstream American movie which has a sympathetic Muslim lead.
“I don’t think it exists,” says the man who almost turned down directing the movie.
“I thought this is a man who I think a mainstream audience can fall in love with, who they can relate to,” says Macdonald in a report from ABC.
At first, Macdonald did not think the memoir was movie material. He turned down the offer to direct the movie but changed his mind after talking to the writer.
“I was intimidated to talk to him,” Macdonald said. “Here’s a guy who’s been accused of being involved in 9/11, who has received a phone call from Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone. And more than anything else here’s a guy who has suffered so much. I thought he was going to be a destroyed human being — angry and resentful.”
He found Mohamedou an intelligent and witty person who could quote “The Big Lebowski” verbatim
Impressed, Macdonald says he knew the story would be about the writer, a man unbroken by the jail time.
Playing Slahi is French actor Tahar Rahim. The actor is best known for his breakout performance in the 2009 French prison drama “A Prophet.” Macdonald had worked with him on “The Eagle.”
Rahim was not comfortable playing a Muslim role in an American production about Guantánamo Bay fearing it would be stereotypical.
“I think when you are a Muslim man and you are taking part in this sort of project, this is more than just about your career,” Macdonald says.
However, after reading five pages, he found the story different and it was the first time he read a script where the Muslim character was sympathetic and at the heart of the movie.
Boston Globe says “The Mauritanian,” the film falls in the category of movies that dramatize the sins of which the US government was guilty in the years following the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Mohamedou Ould Salahi was detained at Guantánamo Bay for 14 years without being charged for a crime, spending 70 days of that time undergoing torture.
He was forced to sign a confession (perhaps Gulag style) that was deemed useless in court.
What our readers should know is most of the men tortured in Guantanamo Bay were freed without charge.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi is the highest-profile Guantanamo detainee not connected with 9/11 and is widely regarded as the most tortured prisoner in the history of Guantanamo Bay.
In 2016 he was reunited with his family after US officials ruled he did not pose a strong enough threat to national security to continue his detention.