In the eyes of the British government, Moazzam Begg is a dangerous man – a radical extremist with connections to extremist Islamist groups from Bosnia to Afghanistan. Begg, who was born in Birmingham to Pakistani parents and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for three years, maintains his innocence, stating that the confession he signed for the FBI was completely false.
In The Confession, director Ashish Ghadiali allows Begg to tell his side of the story, from his questioning of his identity as a teenager to vast upheavals in the Muslim world like 9/11 and the subsequent demonisation of Islam which served to cement his views. “I was not anti-State,” he tells us. “The State was anti-me.” It’s an interview full of fascinating contradictions: Begg is proud of his British upbringing and believes strongly in the idea of multicultural Britain, yet he also openly espouses the idea of jihad in its purest sense (rising above conflict).
The room in which Ghadiali interviews Begg is as sparse as a police cell, and Ghadiali himself sounds like he’s playing the good cop in an interrogation of his own. It’s another funny contradiction: Ghadiali clearly wants Begg to have his day in court, but he seems baffled at his subject’s openness about living under the Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s a light grilling at best, though, and when Begg starts to open up about his incarcerations (both in Guantanamo and in Belmarsh Prison in 2014), it’s abundantly clear that Ghadiali is on his side.
What makes The Confession so effective is that we as viewers are never explicitly asked to take Moazzam Begg’s side; merely to listen to what he has to say. This is a thoughtful and intelligent documentary about religious radicalisation and the very rational choices that often lead people to it.
DIRECTOR: Ashish Ghadiali
SYNOPSIS: Moazzam Begg has experienced a generation of conflict. This is his first-hand account, a chronicle of the rise of modern jihad, its descent into terror and the disastrous reaction of the West.