Rendition shocks, as it should

Rendition shocks, as it should
(Canscene) Leafing through the 1999 edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary I found no references to words and terms  like “blog” “log on and “heads up.”

And then here’s “rendition” for long years a word usually relating to performance, but since 9/11 taking in a new and sinister meaning.

Recently, I saw the DVD version of the  controversial American movie Rendition.  I found it extremely well-directed, suspenseful and well-played by Jake Gyllenhall, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Omar Metwally, Alan Arkin  and a host of actors who were  hitherto unknown to me, but also performing very well.

It’s a fictional story about the  kidnapping of an Egyptian  engineer who’s lived in the States for many years, married to an American but suspected by the CIA of terrorism connections  He’s shipped off to an unnamed Middle Eastern city where he’s subjected to extreme physical and mental torture.

The Moroccan city of Marrakech  “plays” the city to which the unfortunate engineer is taken, and the local CIA rep Douglas (Jake Gyllenhall) is forced to watch as a  brutal chief of police uses a variety of torture on the hapless victim.  His growing sense of disgust with the whole process of rendition leads to a crisis of conscience.

Meanwhile, the victim’s wife, sensing  rendition comes up against the steely Washington head of  CIA renditions  (Meryl Streep) and a senator who could institute an inquiry but prefers to look the other way (Alan Arkin.) We are never told whether the CIA has been justified in suspecting he engineer, which gives  us all the more outrage at such disgusting means of trying to extort a confession  based on mere speculation.  Gavin Hood ‘s direction moves the story along with  scene after dramatic scene, all edited with expertise.

What to me however,  was as interesting as the film itself  was an accompanying special feature documentary about real-life victims of rendition, interspersed with shots of Condoleeza Rice and George W Bush denying that the United States has anything to do with torture. There’s also a quotation from Dick Cheney, a self-declared  advocate of torture by CIA.  Our own Louise Arbour, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is seen voicing her own concerns about rendition. Perhaps that’s why the Harper government has demeaned itself once more in its shabby lack of recognition of the great contribution madame Arbour has made to the cause of human rights.

Looking at the percentage of reviews of the film, I found an almost equal number of critics thought the film excellent or bad   —  32% pro and 33% against. Of the remaining 35%, the scales tipped slightly on the side of “incredibility.”

What does that tell us about the media and the publics they influence?

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