Finally, his story in his words
Director: Patrick Reed
Co-Director: Michelle Shephard
Producers: Patrick Reed, Michelle Shephard, Peter Raymont
Toronto International Film Festival TIFF40
in TIFF Docs
For more than a decade, Omar Khadr, one of Guantanamo’s youngest detainees has existed only as a caricature drawn and defined by others: killer, child soldier, torture victim, detainee, political pawn, terrorist, pacifist, jihadist. We had a simple goal in making this documentary – we wanted to tell his story, by allowing him to tell his story.
–Patrick Reed & Michelle Shephard
August 5, 2015: Omar Khadr: child soldier or unrepentant terrorist? The 28-yr-old Canadian has been a polarizing figure since he was 15. After spending nearly half his life behind bars, including a decade at Guantanamo, Omar Khadr’s life dramatically changed on May 7, 2015, when an Alberta judge released him on bail with these words “Mr. Khadr, you’re free to go.”
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Patrick Reed and co-directed by the Toronto Star’s National Security Reporter and author Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr is an intimate portrait of how a teenager from a Toronto suburb ended up being at the centre of one of the first U.S. war crimes trials since the prosecution of Nazi commanders in the 1940s and the only juvenile ever tried.
Guantanamo’s Child gives Omar Khadr the opportunity to speak for himself on camera, for the first time.
Based in part on Michelle Shephard’s authoritative book Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr, the documentary takes us from his childhood spent traveling between a Canadian suburb and Peshawar at the height of the jihad against the Soviets, into Afghanistan and the homes of al Qaeda’s elite, into the notorious U.S. prisons at Bagram and Guantanamo and back again to Canada.
Featuring unprecedented access and exclusive interviews with Khadr, Guantanamo’s Child was not a simple film to make. The Pentagon blocked any access to Khadr the decade he was held in Guantanamo. “ That was not a surprise”, said filmmakers Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard. “What was a surprise was our struggle to gain access to Khadr once he was transferred to Canada.” The Canadian government refused the filmmakers’ repeated requests to interview the imprisoned Khadr for two years, forcing them to take the case to the Federal Court, which they lost just before Khadr was released on bail.
Guantanamo’s Child includes interviews with key players in Khadr’s story: Dennis Edney, the scrappy lawyer who’s been at his side since 2003, at great personal and financial cost. A U.S. Special Forces soldier, who was at the scene of the 2002 firefight and is speaking for the first time; Damien Corsetti, a former U.S. Army interrogator who met Khadr at Bagram; Moazzam Begg a fellow prisoner with Khadr in Bagram and Guantanamo; retired Brigadier General and forensic psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis, who spent more than 200 hours with Khadr in Guantanamo and continues to counsel him and Moe Davis, former Chief Prosecutor of Guantanamo’s Office of Military commissions who has become one of Guantanamo’s most vocal critics since stepping down in 2007.
Khadr’s story embodies many issues we deal with today: citizenship and identity, the politics of fear and the never-ending war on terror. Confronting our own biases can be hard and Omar Khadr’s story forces us to do that.
Director/Producer Patrick Reed has directed and collaborated on several award-winning documentaries for White Pine Pictures. Many of Reed’s films explore human rights issues, following compelling characters as they struggle with the past and present. One of his first assignments with White Pine was researching and producing Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, which won the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at Sundance 2006, and Best Documentary Emmy in 2007. In 2012 he directed a follow up film Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children, which followed Dallaire on his new mission to eradicate the use of child solders.
Michelle Shephard has spent more than a decade as the Toronto Star’s National Security reporter, traveling around the world, from the streets of Mogadishu, and Sanaa, to the mountains of Waziristan, through the corridors of power and making more than two dozen trips to the world’s most famous jail in Guantanamo Bay. Shephard has collaborated on various documentaries including her role as an associate producer on the Oscar-nominated and Peabody Award winning documentary Under Fire: Journalists in Combat. She is the 2015/2016 recipient of the Atkinson Fellowship and will spend a year investigating the Islamic State and “Generation 9/11.”
About White Pine Pictures
White Pine Pictures is an independent Canadian film, television, and new media production company based in Toronto, Canada. Headed by award-winning filmmaker, Peter Raymont, the company has produced over 100 films, including the Emmy award-winning feature documentary Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, two Oscar-shortlisted features; A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman, and Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould. White Pine is also the producer of the award-winning TV drama series The Border (38 episodes), and Cracked (21 episodes) created for the CBC and sold worldwide including France, Germany, and the USA. www.whitepinepictures.com
Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr is produced by White Pine Pictures in association with CBC, SRC, and Al Jazeera Media Network with the participation of Canada Media Fund, Ontario Media Development Corporation, and with the assistance of Shaw Media Hot Docs Fund
Running Time: 80 minutes
Virginia Kelly, Meghan Parnell
V Kelly & Associates