Director: Jim Threapelton
Screenwriter: Jim Threapelton
Running Time: 77 mins
It doesn’t seem fair to criticise a film on its overly liberal narrative when it opens with a sneer inducing quote from Dick Cheney. What did you expect? Yet Jim Threapelton’s Extraordinary Rendition both benefits from and suffers because of its overt political leanings. In the film a London school teacher Zaafir (Omar Berdouni) is snatched off the street by an unknown group of people (presumably the CIA) taken to another country to side step domestic judiciary issues and tortured for information over a period of several weeks. The film adopts a non-linear narrative as we see Zaafir before, during and after his ordeal reflecting different stages of his psyche and personality.
The subject matter is striking, and a title card informing us that 1,100 people have suffered this human rights nightmare since September 2001 is enough to make anyone queasy regardless of your political leanings on the issue. Yet Threapelton’s script is too much of a left wing simplification of the issue. Zaafir is a politics lecturer who stretches his student’s minds on contemporary issues as he hovers in front of a blackboard with “terrorist or freedom fighter?” in big chalk letters. He’s also a Muslim with a white Catholic wife (Ania Sowinski) who manages to fit basketball and prayer into his daily schedule. He’s perfect character pulpit from which to preach, and even if Threapelton’s message is one I entirely agree with, there is a very one minded account. The scenes of post-rendition Zaafir attending hate marches with Berdouni’s wonderfully expressive eyes now filled with hate feel a little too easy and neat an ending.
On the plus side Threapelton emerges from EIFF as another excellent first time director and lead actor Berdouni is surely one of the finest young actors working today, and thankfully he makes brave choices. It’s thanks to him that Zaafir emerges as a likeable character whose fate we become attached to; he has a natural magnetism that overcomes the cipher like character and his chemistry with on screen wife Sowinski is really engaging. Extraordinary Rendition is an important story made by tremendously talented individuals, yet the issue is far more complicated than simply ‘rendition creates terrorists, even out of uber-liberals.’