In the new film drama, Rendition, the CIA kidnaps Egyptian-born Anwar El-Ibrahimi in Washington, D.C. and sends him to a secret detention facility somewhere in the Middle East for interrogation. Meanwhile, his American wife, Isabella trys to learn the reason for his disappearance. VOA's Penelope Poulou has more on the story.
As soon as he returns to the United States from a business trip to South Africa, Anwar El Ibrahimi gets kidnapped by the CIA. His wife, Isabella El Ibrahimi goes to Washington, D.C., to get answers on her husband's disappearance. She contacts Alan Smith, an old friend, who is the administrative assistant of a U.S. senator.
Alan tells Isabella that her husband was kidnapped: "CIA calls it rendition," he informs Isabella. "Basically, the government is authorized to transfer anyone they think might be a terrorist to prisons outside of the U.S."
Anwar El Ibrahimi is taken to a facility somewhere in the Middle East, where he is interrogated and subsequently tortured by Abasi, a hardened, local cop, who claims, "The work we do is sacred. We save lives."
Anwar is accused of having received calls by a terrorist. The scant evidence of his involvement in a terrorist plot and his pleas of innocence do not ease the interrogations.
"Thoughts of my father went into this role for me," says actor Omar Metwally, who plays Anwar. "He was somebody who immigrated in the United States. He was older than my character when he came [to the United States], and when I was a young kid growing up, my father traveled all the time. He was a businessman. And he was constantly traveling and flying. I remember thinking (of him) when I read the script, imagining him and that immediately gave me such a strong personal connection to the material and to the character."
Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon plays Isabella El Ibrahimi, Anwar's American wife. She says her character is profoundly affected by rendition.
"On the one hand, it seems to be completely dictated by the climate that we live in at this point," says the actress. "But on the other hand, it is completely unacceptable with its repercussions and method [by] doing so. It just doesn't seem altogether American."
Jake Gyllenhaal plays CIA analyst Douglas Freeman. He is assigned to observe the interrogation process of Anwar El-Ibrahimi, but not to interfere.
On the other side of the spectrum is the senior CIA official Corinne Whitman, played by Meryl Streep. She is the ultimate decision-maker on rendition matters.
Rendition raises an important question: how to achieve a balance between public safety and human rights? With a cast of the caliber of Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin, Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal, one expects a powerful political drama on rendition issues. Unfortunately, this one is drowning in the blank stares of a hapless CIA agent and the whimpers of a helpless soccer mom.