Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Detention Inspires Documentary

Posted: August 16, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Though the big white van Elena Razlogova drove around the country this summer garnered some attention from passersby, it was the DVD playing inside that she really hoped would spark attention. Razlogova, webmaster for George Mason’s Center for History and New Media, and Lisa Lynch, professor of media studies at Catholic University, visited approximately one dozen cities across the country, mostly in the American Midwest, informing and collecting public opinion about the United States’ detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Driving the “Guantanamobile,” Razlogova and Lynch interviewed dozens of people about their knowledge and opinion of the legal, political, and territorial issues of the detention of prisoners on the military base in Cuba. They also publicly screened a DVD they produced containing interviews with lawyers, Constitutional and human rights experts, and even a mother of one of the detainees.

Researchers interviewing people
Elena Razlogova and Lisa Lynch conduct an on-the-street interview with a passerby in Nashville.

“We wanted to inform people of this issue, but also to record how people are reacting to it and how much they know about it,” says Razlogova. “We found that a lot of people are unaware of the issue, or know so little that they don’t have an informed opinion. Many of the places we visited have very limited access to newspapers or media outlets that cover the Guantanamo issue, which is alarming.”

Razlogova, who is in charge of the project’s web site, is interested in public history and recording stories and opinions from people as history happens. The Guantanamo Bay detentions also hit a personal note for Razlogova. Originally from Russia, she is concerned about the U.S. treatment of noncitizens and the territorial issues surrounding the controversy.

Guantanamo video
The Guantanamobile projects their film on a public building in downtown Nashville.

The two researchers found that many people they talked with were interested in what they were doing and wanted to learn more. Razlogova and Lynch handed out flyers explaining their project and listing the experts they interviewed on the video. The DVD also covered the history of Guantanamo Bay, the recent Supreme Court case, information about the detainees themselves, and an explanation of why Americans should care.

“We want to raise awareness and get people to start thinking about the problem,” says Razlogova. Next month, the team will post excerpts from the interviews on the web site. They are also applying for grants that will allow them to produce a feature-length documentary about the U.S. public response to the Guantanamo detentions.

Write to at