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Hot Docs 2014 Review: The Secret Trial 5

Amar Wala’s The Secret Trial 5, documenting the charges laid against men in Canada under the security certificate, has been compared to Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Kafka’s book documented the case of Josef K, who was arrested and charged by an amorphous, overly bureaucratic government, and placed on trial for charges that are never fully explained to him or the reader. While Kafka’s book is a suspenseful account of coming under attack from government interference, The Secret Trial 5 does not feature nearly enough mystery.

The story is fascinating, Wala clearly demonstrates that there is no case against the five Muslim men. But the viewer is ultimately left unsatisfied, as the existential dread captured in Kafka`s Trial is not matched in the film.

The viewer is left with more questions than answers. For example, why were these five men in particular chosen to violate the security certificate? Why were they all men? How come they were suspected of having connections to Al-Qaeda when they clearly did not?

Though the interviews with the four men, (the first did not want to be shown) are gripping, they lack the sense of urgency that seems to be needed for a topic such as this one. The culprits in the government are identified fairly early, (not surprisingly, it is mainly the Conservatives), but Wala has a tendency towards showing, instead of telling, and shot after shot of newspaper headlines, news reports, and, most egregiously, focusing closely on words and sentences grows a bit wearisome as the movie should be hurtling towards a denouement (which is sadly lacking here).

[star v=25]