Writers probably need to be a little bit nuts…

With the explosion of streaming providers clamouring for our attention, it is all too easy to waste endless evenings on sub-standard films. How many of us have shuffled off to bed ruing another precious evening wasted? So when a recommendation comes along I tend to listen and so it was with The Mauritanian.

I tend to enjoy True Stories. As well as feeling educational, it can lend the film more punch and why filmmakers flag always flag this ahead of the movie. Or Based on a True Story – if artistic licence is used.

But the Mauritanian is more bold and assertive and goes with – THIS IS A TRUE STORY.

And what a story it is.

Bleak, hideous, chastening, appalling, tragic, shaming, despicable… any number of words can be used to describe this tale but all of them are insufficient.

Prison dramas have become sub-genre: The Shawshank Redemption, Midnight Express, Escape from Alcatraz, Papillion, Mean Machine, The Green Mile, The Great Escape…

The Mauritanian is a film about the most controversial prison on earth. A story about the 9/11 atrocity and the men held responsible for it in Guantanamo Bay. A prison established in 2002 and where 40 prisoners remain today.

Cuba is on many people’s bucket lists. The romance of Havana and the history of the place not to mention its beauty, climate and endless beaches. But the Mauritanian will do nothing to boost Cuban tourism.

Our ‘hero’ is Mohamedou Slahi (Tahar Ramin) and his incarceration and the unimaginable torture he endures within which he signs a full confession.

“Guilty your honour. Now please stop torturing me.’

Even a limited legal mind like mine can appreciate the redundancy of this statement. That evidence derived by torture is worthless which is the kernel of the film and the morsel of hope that his American lawyer (Jodie Foster) latches on to and eventually prevails with, when a US judge finds Mohamedou innocent after seven years of solitary confinement.

A confinement of unimaginable hardship. In a tiny cell with no natural light and all alone. And including 70 days of what is referred to as ‘special measures’ – a sanitised phrase for torture: sleep deprivation for days in a forced standing position, with strobe lighting and incessant, deafening heavy metal music, interrogators wearing rubber animal masks, simulating sex acts on him, water boarding in his cell and blindfolded from a boat and finally the threat to arrest his mother and bring her to Guantanamo…

And yet his reprieve by the judge is overruled by the President and his 7 years is extended to almost 15 before he is finally released.

Any governments first responsibility is the safety of its citizens – and with such malevolence directed against it – to fly planes in to buildings and kill so indiscriminately – extreme counter measures might be necessary, but watching this film, who would want such a responsibility?

Who would be a politician?

The Mauritanian is a visceral exposure of this. A moral conundrum and contradiction. It is a painful watch. As much a study of human nature and our frailties.

I began to look forward to the epilogue. I hope the filmmakers will provide some closure. A real time update which is captioned and sometimes with photos, which I always appreciate. But in this instance, The Mauritanian excels itself, providing not only a conclusion and update but by including home video footage, the director (Kevin McDonald – How I Live Now) provides almost a short film within his movie and it is most welcome.

We learn that Mohamedou has since married – to an American lawyer and also that he has written a book about his experiences. Fifteen years of very hard time.

In the footage, we see him smiling and appearing remarkably well adjusted. And then we see his book.

His worldwide best-selling book.

He proudly shows the camera editions in various foreign languages. English,  Arabic, Danish…

And speaking of human nature and the point of this blog…

Having watched his excruciating hardship and forfeiting his freedom for fifteen long years – to then see his upside of penning a worldwide hit book…

For a fleeting moment, I felt envious of him.

Just imagine…

To write a book that is translated and read across the world. The lucky bastard. And I  start to make a calculation…

Would I endure 15 years…

Ridiculous, I know and yet I am afraid, it gets worse…

Because going to bed with Mohamedou’s story in my mind and my warped creative logic, I managed to see other parallels between us.

Because speaking of pain?

With the thousands of hours I’ve spent writing, all alone (solitary confinement) – producing eight books and none of them even a mild hit in the UK, let alone the world, what is this experience if not painful…


This year I will complete my 8th and 9th books – and with them this pain is likely to continue but I enjoy trying to defy the odds.








11 thoughts on “Writers probably need to be a little bit nuts…

  1. Verónica says:

    Great read as always! ✨ I mean, this one can be a hard watch, like Cherry …
    Just one thing that I hope it’s still possible to change: you just wrote “Guilty your honour. Now please stop torturing me.’ (with an opening double quote and a closing single quote )

    • Letícia Cardoso says:

      hello sir holland! My opinion may not be the most acclaimed in the world, but maybe it will make your day a little better. You may not even consider yourself a successful writer, because your books are not very popular in the world. But they can fill the hearts of those who have read. I admire you very much, I am passionate about writing and books, and soon I will become a journalist in order to enjoy this art, and you are my inspiration. Every week, i look forward to your blog on sunday, and i love to reflect on it. So in my opinion you are a great writer, and maybe one day you will get the credits you deserve.

    • Yuna says:

      Hi dom ,great log . I love a sua dica de filme . E igual Cherry .amo Cherry . Good luck aí an hause para o oscar
      Oscar Goes to…
      I am watching ❤️

    • Lorraine says:

      It sounds like a tough watch but one for the list Dom. It’s so hard that people endure such hideous torture at the hands of other humans. One to make us stop Nd think. Thank you for last night, it was really enjoyable. Have a good week

      • Geri says:

        Hi Dom, my husband and I watched it 2 days ago. Definitely a recommendation. Also The Courier if you’re haven’t watched already. We too movies based on true stories. We saw how the Mauritanian endured 15 years of hardship (what hits me the hardest was he never got to see his mother again) and then we saw him being happy with his new life. There was a contrast between him and his prison friend Marseille. The peace and happiness he chose to carry with him after all that was he had hope and faith in God. Whereas Marseille chose to end his life because he had given up long ago. Slahi chose to forgive his captors and therefore makes him free. I’m Catholic and I believe in hope and faith. So don’t worry Dom, focus on THE ONE THING (highly recommend this book by Gary Keller) you need to do and keep going. With faith and hope, you will make it one day. My husband was in the film industry before and he says only one out of 10 films will make it. So write 2 more books. You’re just 2 books short! I’ll be looking forward to your making it out there! God bless you and your family!

  2. Sydnee Coleman says:

    I like the turns that your blogs have taken as of late Mr. H. It’s rather interesting, and I’m so proud(and happy) that you’ve kept with your writing because I for one love your writing. Also you are writing novels and a blog, I would love to do that. I have so many great beginnings or great ending but no middle or the other way around. And I’ve been working on a poetry book for a while now, but the poems only come once in awhile. But you every week write a blog and you are writing two books, that is nothing less than impressive.

  3. valerie says:

    Very beautiful article and the man of which you speak had a sacred courage, there are human beings that nothing can destroy, women or men, they manage to pass through the worst tests, they are invested by the life and nothing reaches them, they paused a knee on the ground, but, they get up again and continue, I advise you the life of Martin Gray with his very famous “In the name of all mine”. You will have your success, hang in there and you will have your literary recognition, I personally look forward to your articles every Sunday. Thank you for delighting us every Sunday. I wish you all the best.

  4. Ximena Cruz says:

    This so interesting
    I really like to read your blogs they are so good and I like to watch movies that are about real stories.

  5. Antonieta Alanis says:

    I have become a fan of yours, I love your blogs, although it is almost an odyssey to translate them into Spanish, because I am not good for technology, I do not mind taking capture and translating page by page.
    Every Sunday the first thing I do.
    Thank you I love reading it.
    Greetings from Monterrey, Mexico.

  6. G'na Elyse says:

    Streaming increases library volume, but not always quality. There are films and movies these days. Once upon a time the were one in the same, but as Bob Dylan once wrote, said, and sang,

    “The Times They Are A-Changin’

    Are rockets not reusable these days?

    The dangers of having a brilliant mind.
    Electrical engineering is not only the most difficult in all the engineering sciences to study, but it drives the path of the future too. The kind of mind that comes with great responsibility as it would be sought after by the governments of the world.

    September 11, 2001: No Vandenberg Launches Scheduled…

    It was fall of my Senior year of high school. It was “sleep in season” for the girls water polo team because we did not train while the boys were in season. (there was no pool on campus yet) With everyone fresh out of summer league, I worked on my mental game by recording statistics for the boys team. Tracking the numbers that marked their path to championships time and a time again.

    When I awoke, the day felt off. It was not a typical Central Coast Tuesday with a likely rocket launch that should be viewable by third period. No, it was different, and it wasn’t because my dearest friend and his mother had recently moved to New Hampshire. They had departed a fortnight ago. He had called me over to say farewell. The news was a shock and they seemed to be in such a rush…

    His birthday was just a few days away from today, but. . .

    Furrowed brow, I arise to the sound of the news blaring in the family room. In my pajamas and messy hair I make my way down the hall. As the television came within sight I rubbed my eyes, my glasses weren’t on, but I could see it was The Twin Towers smoldering! The screen suddenly jumped to a replay.

    My Grandfather let me know we would be leaving for school in 45 minutes because my mother was taking the car for an appointment.

    I got dressed in a daze, and stepped back down the hall. Ten minutes later, we were watching what we could not believe.
    The Twin Towers crumbling.
    Two minutes later, we were out the door. . .

    . . . As I entered English class, everything was more still and silent than I ever recalled. The bell rang, my classmates and I were seated in silence without the lights on. My Professor looked at the Class of 2002 and let us know we were not allowed to turn on the news, and gave us an assignment.

    I began to write myself a letter.

    The Falcon 9 landed for the first time on December 21, 2015.

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