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Exposing life inside the world’s most notorious prison

Slahi does not want to relive the worst moments of his captivity and so has avoided watching the most traumatic scenes in the film. But, now his book has been turned into a major feature film, he believes it is a clear example of the pen being mightier than the sword. “I don’t believe in violence but my whole story was violence against my body, my innocence, members of my family and I never did anything to the US,” he says. “My movie is a victory for non-violence, it’s a victory of the pen.”

The fact is, however, that while many feature films, documentaries, TV shows, books and news reports have shown the reality of the prison camp, it still remains open. The Obama administration promised to close it and failed. Now President Biden has said he aims to close it before his first term finishes. So with a new president in the Oval Office, could The Mauritanian be the Guantánamo Bay movie to herald the end of the detention centre?

Rahim wants audiences to take away the message of “hope and forgiveness over anger,” while Eviatar says, “any films that depict the tragedy of Guantánamo, the unjust and often haphazard way many men ended up there and thereby put pressure on the US government to close it down, is doing a great service.”

Slahi, who continues to be denied entry into the US and the UK five years after his release from Guantanamo Bay with no compensation or apology, hopes the film will show the Western world that he is an innocent man and that the negative perceptions of Middle Eastern and North African citizens need to end.

“I want people to know my side of the story [and] I feel humbled that it was made into a major motion picture,” he says. “I don’t have weapons, I don’t have the police. I don’t have drones to take out people but I have my words and I want to debate the negative exceptionalism [towards] the Arab world and Africa. We can’t be kidnapped; we can’t be tortured.”

The Mauritianian is in select cinemas in the US now, and will be available on demand there from 2 March.

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