×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Persons Of Interest

Going where most major media has feared to tread, filmmakers Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse record the testimony and personal stories of a dozen U.S. citizens and immigrants detained and imprisoned after 9/11 in "Persons of Interest." Spartan docu is seldom boring but also rarely electrifying, even though it directs several pointed jabs at U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and his get-tough policy aimed at suspected terrorists on U.S. soil.

With:
With: Muhamed Abushhaker, Syed Ali, Khadrah Ali, Nabil Ayesh, Mateen Butt, Miriam Hamzeh, Mohammed Irshaid, Salem Jaffer, Amanda Serrano, Faiq Medraj, Syed Shah, Shokriea Yaghi. (English, Arabic, Spanish, Urdu dialogue)

Going where most major media has feared to tread, filmmakers Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse record the testimony and personal stories of a dozen U.S. citizens and immigrants detained and imprisoned after 9/11 in “Persons of Interest.” Spartan docu is seldom boring but also rarely electrifying, even though it directs several pointed jabs at U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and his get-tough policy aimed at suspected terrorists on U.S. soil. Most likely home for polemical docu is cutting-edge cable.

Viewers sympathetic to the Bush Administration’s expansion of federal law enforcement powers may dismiss the pic, because it relies purely on these detainees’ claims. And while it’s true the full backgrounds of those interviewed aren’t supplied here (nearly all are Muslim, with a majority being Palestinian), the pain, terror and frustration of their experiences sounds and feels authentic.

The filmmakers (with designer Deb Devilla) create a spare, cold all-white room to simulate the prisons where the detainees were kept. At points, the immigrants –among the few detainees to accept the filmmakers’ invitation to speak on camera — are asked, among the audible off-camera questions, to re-create (in mime) some of their prison moments.

Salem Jaffer, arrested in upstate New York and held in solitary confinement at a Buffalo internment facility for more than a month, mimics a psychiatrist who has evidently grilled him about being able to fly a plane, as well as his drinking and eating habits.

While it sounds bad enough that father of three and civil engineer Mohammed Irshaid was questioned and jailed for 21 days without charges, Muhamed Abushaker’s case is a nightmare. When officials appeared at his home, the former Gaza Strip resident believed he was being taken to INS offices to receive his Green Card, but was instead handcuffed, never cited and jailed for more than a year.

“Persons of Interest” abounds with such horror stories, though the sheer number of them and the spare presentation tends to reduce their impact.

Crafty inserts of clips from various Ashcroft press conferences and Congressional hearings deliberately undermine the attorney general in the best tradition of Emile de Antonio (“Rush to Judgment”), and guarantee strong post-screening arguments and discussions; if these detainees’ accounts are even half-true, the wonder is why the electronic media in particular has failed to follow the odor of unconstitutional behavior by local and federal law enforcement. Vid-shot production, as deliberately minimalist as it is, is polished, while shooting consistently allows for moments of spontaneity. Lensing happened during the Muslim holy time of Ramadan in 2002.

Persons Of Interest

Production: The Documentary Campaign presentation. Produced by Lawrence Konner, Daniel Massey, Jackie Kelman. Directed by Alison Maclean, Tobias Perse.

Crew: Camera (color, DV, digital projection), Richard Rutkowski; editor, Sandrine Isambert; production designer, Deb Devilla ; sound, William Tsouris ; line producer, Tricia Rosenthal; assistant producers, Astra Taylor, Malinda Campbell. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 18, 2004. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival.) Running time: 64 MIN.

With: With: Muhamed Abushhaker, Syed Ali, Khadrah Ali, Nabil Ayesh, Mateen Butt, Miriam Hamzeh, Mohammed Irshaid, Salem Jaffer, Amanda Serrano, Faiq Medraj, Syed Shah, Shokriea Yaghi. (English, Arabic, Spanish, Urdu dialogue)

More Film

  • Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    Film News Roundup: 'Lawnmower Man' Director Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Elijah” gets a director, a French fry documentary starts shooting and “Uglydolls” moves its release date forward. PROJECT LAUNCH Brett Leonard, best known for directing ”The Lawnmower Man” and “Virtuosity,” will direct the supernatural feature film “Elijah,” based on the Old Testament prophet. More Reviews Broadway Review: 'To Kill a [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Commercial Negotiations Set for February

    With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned. The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry [...]

  • SONDRA LOCKESONDRA LOCKE - 1986

    Oscar Nominee Sondra Locke Dies at 74

    Actress and director Sondra Locke, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination in her first movie role for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” died Nov. 3 at 74. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed her death. She died due to breast and bone cancer, according to Radar Online, which reported that she [...]

  • Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood'The Mule'

    Clint Eastwood: Why Alison Eastwood Came Out of Acting Retirement for Her Dad

    Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison Eastwood was done with acting after appearing in 2014’s “Finding Harmony.” Or so she thought. It was a Friday night and she and her husband were heading to dinner when her father’s producer Sam Moore called. “He [says], ‘You know, your dad wants you to do this film,” Alison recalls. “I [...]

  • 'Dead Women Walking' Review: Uncompromising, Powerful

    Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking'

    The sober and gripping “Dead Women Walking” focuses on the final days of a series of female inmates facing the death sentence. Divided into nine chapters, each inching its way inexorably closer to the moment of execution, the drama turns the fragmentation of its approach to a powerful advantage. Not only do the individual stories [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. Mendes wrote the script [...]

  • Ventana Sur Queer Latin Film Panel

    Ventana Sur: Panel Talks Merits, Setbacks in Latin Queer Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES — Four venerable professionals from the cinema world joined on Monday evening for Queer Cinema In Latin America, a frank discussion on Latin America’s role within the queer filmscape for Ventana Sur’s Industry conference series held at the UCA campus in Buenos Aires. Touching on advancements in character arc and notable achievements in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content