Director Meg Smaker’s feature-length debut, the intense documentary “The UnRedacted” (formerly known as “Jihad Rehab”), chronicles the plight of Guantanamo detainees undergoing a longterm program of de-radicalization in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking with “The Perfect Storm” author Sebastian Junger at a lively Awards Season Screening Series Q&A at New York City’s Village East Cinema on Sept. 6, Smaker explained that her desire to tell these detainees’ stories came after she experienced a shift in the attitudes of her fellow firefighters after 9/11.
“Before 9/11, my firehouse was a place of love and support and family, and the day after, it became a place of hatred and rage and bigotry,” says Smaker. “And nothing that I saw in mainstream media answered any of the questions generated from the day. The only way I could think about that was to go to Afghanistan on my own.”
When Smaker did a deep-dive into the jihadist subjects of the film, she discovered the layers most American stories tend to miss. “The national narrative of the U.S. is ‘these men are all psychopaths, and this is a violent religion and they hate us,’” Smaker said. “Spending three years with them, I realized there’s a complexity and nuance with real life.”
Smaker revealed that the journey taught her immeasurable lessons about making assumptions, one of which is that American culture, ironically enough, is firmly ingrained into the detainees’ consciousness, in surprising and unexpected ways.
“There’s a line in the film where [one of the men] says, ‘I ain’t got a job, I ain’t got no money.’ That’s from the movie ‘Friday,’ and they watched this movie in Guanatanamo,” Smaker explained. “My favorite scene that we had to cut was the story of how [detainee] Ali learned English. When he went to Guantanamo, he was 16 years old, a kid. During the Bush administration, they weren’t allowed any TV or contact with family, and Obama changed all that. And Ali told me how he learned English through playing “Grand Theft Auto.” There are missions that come up [in the game] and he would stop and translate the mission. Those kinds of stories are interesting to me because nothing is all one thing.”
Watch the full interview here or in the video below.
There will be an additional Guild Member Screening of “The UnRedacted” as part of TheWrap Screening Series in Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 10th at 1pm at The Crescent Theater, 100 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, which can be RSVPd at https://theunredactedjihadrehab-la.splashthat.com/