In an absurd comedy of errors, a freedom-loving Iraqi journalist is mistaken as Tony Blair's would-be assassin and sent to Abu Ghraib Prison where he discovers the true meaning of liberation.
Baghdad, September 2003: In a middle class house on a quiet street, a family is fast asleep. Without warning, the front door is crashed and American soldiers storm the house looking for weapons and bomb-making material. Cameraman Michael Tucker documents the event as the men in the house are cuffed and forced to kneel in the garden. A search of the house uncovers no incriminating evidence, however Yunis Khatayer Abbas and three of his brothers are taken and detained.
Bent on forcing Yunis to confess to crimes he did not commit, his captors press him with bizarre questions about music tastes, sexual preferences and Harrison Ford. His intelligence value exhausted, he is then transferred to Abu Ghraib Prison. The charge: Planning the Assassination of Tony Blair.
Among thousands suffering from food shortages, riots and insurgent attacks, Yunis endures by helping his fellow prisoners and keeping a secret diary. He also forges an unlikely friendship with one of his guards, who he calls "The Good Soldier".
Combining Tucker's embedded footage, Yunis' home movies, testimony from former guard Benjamin Thompson and original comic book art, Tucker and Epperlein trace the moving story of an ordinary man trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare.
Unique in it's presentation and unlikely in it's very existence, THE PRISONER OR: HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR details an absurd comedy of errors where one freedom-loving Iraqi journalist learns the true meaning of liberation.
Co- Directed and Co-Produced by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's ("Gunner Palace") THE PRISONER OR: HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR opens in select theaters starting March 23rd.
About the Film:
Baghdad, September 22, 2003: Yunis Khatayer Abbas, a freelance Iraqi cameraman, had just returned to his family's home after filming a friend's wedding party. He was happy and tired after a night out with his younger brothers. Meanwhile, Michael Tucker, an American cameraman in Baghdad to document the lives of the American soldiers of "Gunner Palace", was in a convoy headed for a raid on a house where Coalition Intelligence said four brothers were building bombs for a terrorist cell.
At half past midnight, the gate to the house was breeched and Tucker came in behind the soldiers to find five suspects on their knees. As he filmed their arrest, one of the suspects protested, "I'm a journalist, you mistake this," before he was led away in handcuffs. The protesting suspect was Yunis.
THE PRISONER OR: HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR - a film by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein details the life of Iraqi journalist Yunis Khatayer Abbas, as he was incarcerated for eight months wrongly accused of being an insurgent planning to kill Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Yunis had been taken before. In 1998, Uday Hussein's police arrested him for writing a critical poem. He spent three months in Al Radwaniya prison where he was subjected to beatings and electric shocks. Now five years later, as American tanks rolled into Baghdad, he hoped for a better future in a free Iraq. His dream was to be a journalist--"to tell the truth"--something that had always been in short supply in Iraq. He found his chance working as a cameraman for western journalists. No doubt it was dangerous work and Yunis observed, "If the Americans don't kill me, the insurgents will," yet he loved his job and working with foreigners.
That night in September 2003, he told his three brothers that their arrest was just a mistake and not to worry, they would be released once the Americans found out who they were.
The next day, as he sat in a chair in the Baghdad Police Academy, an American interrogator demanded, "Tell me the plan. Tell me the truth." Yunis didn't know of any plan. He asked for mercy. He was told that there "was no mercy for terrorists". Day and night he was questioned until they finally told him why he was there - "You are planning to kill Tony Blair." Yunis laughed, but no one laughed with him. He spent the next eight months in detention at two locations, including Abu Ghraib prison where he wrote a secret diary on the inside of his boxer shorts--a diary that reveals, beyond the infamous pornographic abuse at the prison, a climate of systematic indifference.
While imprisoned, Yunis befriended one of the guards, Army Specialist Benjamin Thompson, who he calls "the good soldier." Thompson, unlike so many other American military personnel Yunis had encountered, dared to treat him like a human being. He realized early on in his tour of duty at Abu Ghraib that the conditions in Camp Ganci (the section of Abu Ghraib where prisoners with "no intelligence value" were held and Yunis was interned) were inhumane. Thompson, along with other members of his MP company, did their best to improve conditions in the camp and to respond to the humanitarian needs of the prisoners. After finishing his tour and returning to America, Thompson often "googled" his friend Yunis' name curious to find out what had happened to him. Eventually he discovered that Yunis was the subject of a film project. He contacted the filmmakers and agreed to participate.
Using recently declassified documents on Abu Ghraib combined with interviews with post-incarceration Yunis and post-tour Thompson, the filmmakers' create a moving story of an ordinary man who maintained his dignity despite the mad accusations and harsh treatment of an absurdist security apparatus.
In the end THE PRISONER becomes a story of hope: the hope of a captured journalist who believes in the power of truth and the hope of the soldier, pressed into service as a jailer, who fights his own private battle to hold back the forces of degradation.
THE PRISONER OR: HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR is co-directed and co-produced by the husband and wife team of Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein for Pepper & Bones Films.