Rendition is the name of the process whereby the American government extradites terror suspects with no record of their removal, and ships them to countries that facilitate torture. The film portrays the factors in one family man's rendition while his wife searches for him and a CIA analyst questions the process. Dealing with such weighty issues, director Gavin Hood had to be careful about the details. He decided to call the country where the torture takes place North Africa.
Gavin Hood on the Practice of Rendition
"We know that rendition and renditions have happened to Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay," said Hood. "Well, we very quickly realized that many of our cast and many of our crew come from countries which do not enjoy the kind of liberties and civil liberties that Americans enjoy. Any country we named would potentially cause some backlash to our cast and crew. So, the use of the word ‘North Africa,’ I come from Africa. There are many countries in Africa, I’m very aware of that and one of them is not ‘North Africa,’ but in the interests of the safety of our cast and crew, and by the way, in keeping with the notion that nobody knows where anybody is when they are rendered, we chose to just say ‘North Africa.’" It’s important that we know we are talking about things that happen to real people and there are greater risks for some of our cast and crew in terms of the realities of the possibilities of detention and torture."
Though Hood speaks out against rendition, he made the film ambiguous as to whether or not the suspect in this particular case was guilty. His connection to terrorists is a cell phone call that is never explained away.
"It is deliberately because the real issue, and it is not whether this man is guilty or innocent. The movie starts out and you feel he's innocent. Then you feel he's guilty. Then you feel maybe he's innocent but there's the possibility of his guilt. Which means the real question for you to analyze in my mind is whether the process of Extraordinary Rendition is good regardless of guilt or innocence. One guy was very mad at me in a screening because he was so pleased when the guy was guilty. He wanted the movie to end with him being guilty so that you would have to confront the question of torture even if the guy is guilty. That's why we left it open. It's easy to discuss it if he's totally innocent. Well, what if he's not? Now how do you feel about torture?"
That is the more specific representation of Hood's own views. "Then you're left to ask the question: Do I still think the rendition program and the absence of judicial oversight and the act of right of access to a lawyer is a good thing? Is it? We give murderers lawyers. We give potential rapists, we give child abusers lawyers. What's with this notion the guy who might be a terrorist, that we just suddenly strip everything away and we end up with thousands of people in Guantanamo who we now don't know what to do with?' Whatever our point of view about torture is, we can't become a lawless society."