Jodie Foster and Director Kevin Macdonald chatted with The Knockturnal on upcoming film The Mauritanian, starring Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Levi, Saamer Usmani, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who also produces. The powerful picture is based on true events and has already captured Oscar buzz and Golden Globes nominations before its Feb. 12th release.
The Mauritanian deconstructs best-selling memoir “Guantánamo Diary” into a psychological legal drama unveiling the cruel mistreatment at the U.S. military detention center in Cuba. Following attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States pushes to punish those responsible. Government agencies accuse Mohamedou Ould Slahi of Mauritania of orchestrating terrorism and place him in Guantánamo Bay, where he spends over a decade without ever being charged. Albuquerque attorney Nancy Hollander (Foster) races to bring back justice to a lawless system and get Slahi, who maintains his innocence, a fair chance in court. Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Cumberbatch) represents the U.S., prosecuting the accused.
The Mauritanian drags modern-day America through interrogation, spilling its secrets across a bare jail cell table chained down by its own scathing impropriety. In the film, military officials subject Slahi to inhumane treatment—none of which is fictionalized by filmmakers. It was important to them to illustrate his real-life experiences being tortured U.S.’s Guantánamo Bay prison, but also in a manner that did not overwhelm audiences to the point of the film not being watchable. In a mix with physical abuse, Macdonald hones in on Slahi’s psychological trauma and responses to trauma. Audiences venture into the mental unraveling of Slahi.
It is in words where Slahi finds beauty, refuge, and hope. He documents life behind prison walls and composes pages on his outlook of the world. His writing moves attorney Hollander and her associate Teri Duncan (Woodley).
Altogether, The Mauritanian’s lead character radiates an unfleeting joy despite his circumstances. And in those heartfelt moments, audiences are brought towards an accompanying smile. Nevertheless, coming face-to-face with present-day injustice is inescapable and indelible. The villains are real. The conflict is real. The plot is real. These things happened to Mohamedou Ould Slahi from 2001 to 2016, and the U.S. prison where they happened is very much still in existence and running. This film comes as government accountability is a forefront in discourse today and as a new presidential administration can possibly alleviate what past ones would not.
The Mauritanian is out Feb. 12, 2021. Check out the trailer below.