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SXSW Review: ‘We Are Not Ghouls’

March 15, 2022Ben MK

When you think of whistleblowers, you might think of people like Edward Snowden or the infamous Watergate informant known as Deep Throat. What you might not think of is someone like retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley. A former JAG attorney, Yvonne was raised as a fundamental Christian and considered herself a staunch supporter of the American way. Her loyalties to her own government were thrown into question, however, when she was appointed to defend a Guantanamo Bay prisoner named Binyam Mohamed, in the wake of 9/11.

A young Ethiopian man who fled the chaos of his home country for the United Kingdom, Binyam discovered Islam and traveled to Afghanistan shortly before that fateful day in September, 2001. However, once the World Trade Center towers were attacked and the war in Afghanistan began, he soon realized that getting out of the war zone would be anything but easy. When he attempted to make his way back to the UK with a fake passport, Binyam was arrested on suspected terrorism charges and detained. It was when he finally was transferred to Cuba's infamous Guantanamo Bay, though, that he met Yvonne, and it's from that point on that the two would find their lives inextricably intertwined. In this eye-opening documentary, director Chris James Thompson chronicles Yvonne and Binyam's journey through a justice system that seemed anything but just, as Yvonne helps shine a light on the lies the US government has been telling its citizens about its war on terror. Yet, despite her efforts and the efforts of others like her, has it really has an effect on the way the CIA and other intelligence agencies operate?

Based on the book The Guantanamo Lawyers, what follows is the story of one woman's mission to expose the truth, and how at times that quest seemed to be in direct opposition to the oath she swore to her very own government. More importantly, We Are Not Ghouls is a powerful reminder of the immense debt all of us owe to individuals like Yvonne. For if no one had the courage to speak up for their beliefs, then not only would victims like Binyam be left at the mercy of their abusers, but the world in general would be a much grimmer place.

We Are Not Ghouls screens under the Documentary Spotlight section at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 34 min.

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