This short film, by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, with music by Massive Attack feat. Damon Alban, is a heavy and disturbing look into the use of music and sound as it was used at Guantanamo Bay on former detainee Ruhal Ahmed. Not only is Ahmed’s experience disturbing, but the film does a good job of making the viewer feel uncomfortable and have a small taste of what was doubtlessly a complete hell. The soundtrack is jarring, the storytelling enthralling, and the video is spellbinding in its depiction of sound as a tool. It was filmed in Cambridge University Anechoic Chamber, a space engineered to be completely silent – a radical and poignant departure from Ahmed’s 60-hour torture sessions in a space roughly the same size. The most salient moments of the film for me cleverly depict the effect of music on various substances – grains of sand and a corn starch slurry – and how the sound can literally torture these substances and make them writhe and contort until they break.
Sorry for the imminent rant that’s about to happen here, but this is not just some interesting story about something far away. This is the government of the United States subjecting someone to torture. It’s morally wrong, it’s backwards policy, and I’m embarrassed on behalf of my country that it happened. It’s truly sickening. Music may only be one small aspect to the program, and probably takes a backseat to things like waterboarding in the news, but it’s no less painful, no less morally abominable, and no more forgivable.
Zero dB is an organization who’s aim is to end music torture. They mentioned a petition on their site, but I couldn’t find it… Obama has made it a goal of his (though not yet a reality – thanks gutless Republicans!) to close Guantanamo Bay prison and end this terrible chapter of our history, which would be a great step. But there will still be CIA black sites, there is still Bagram, there is still Mosul, and until this and every other form of enhanced interrogation techniques, or whatever the fuck euphemism you want to use, are outlawed, we’ll still be complicit and responsible for stories like Ahmed’s.