Park City, UT, January 25, 2011—Acclaimed director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Fair Game) is teaming up with the American Civil Liberties Union, PEN American Center, and the Sundance Film Festival to present a special performance of “Reckoning With Torture: Memos and Testimonies From the ‘War on Terror’” on Saturday, January 29, at 12:00 p.m. MST at the Egyptian Theater in Park City, Utah. The event, featuring staged readings from formerly secret government documents, is being filmed for a documentary Liman is directing to raise awareness of the scope and human cost of the United States’ post-9/11 torture program.

Actress America Ferrera joins writers Sandra Cisneros, Annie Proulx, Marilynne Robinson, Esmeralda Santiago, George Saunders, and Naomi Wolf; documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney; former interrogation insiders Jack Rice and Matthew Alexander; and other surprise guests to perform the readings. The texts are drawn largely from over 150,000 pages of formerly classified government documents obtained by the ACLU in a lawsuit that The New York Times has called “among the most successful in the history of public disclosure”; they include secret legal memos that sought to justify torture, emails written by FBI agents who witnessed torture at Guantánamo, interrogation logs, transcripts of military tribunal proceedings, and moving statements and affidavits by U.S servicemen and women who objected to the abusive interrogations.

Interspersed between readings, former Guantánamo detainees deliver haunting video testimonials, and acclaimed artist Jenny Holzer’s imagery incorporating the documents themselves provides a powerful visual backdrop for the readings.

“It’s a privilege to work with the ACLU and PEN American Center on this important project,” said Liman. “As the documents we are presenting make clear, there is no longer any doubt that the United States repeatedly and systematically violated longstanding prohibitions on torture. We’re at a pivotal moment in history, and my hope is that America will choose a path toward restoring this nation as a defender of human rights. If everyone gets involved in calling for accountability for torture, that is what will happen.”

The ACLU and PEN have been staging “Reckoning With Torture” events around the country for the past two years. The Sundance event will mark the start of production of a feature length documentary, which Liman is directing and which will incorporate footage from Saturday’s event and upcoming “Reckoning” readings in other U.S. and international cities.
 
“The ‘Reckoning With Torture’ program is one part of our broader effort to press the Obama administration to hold accountable the senior government officials who authorized torture,” said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal director of the ACLU. “We are gratified that Doug Liman and so many extraordinary artists are joining this effort. The administration’s failure to confront the legacy of torture compromises America’s ability to advocate for human rights in other countries and erodes the rule of law here at home. We hope that the ‘Reckoning’ program can help convey how crucial it is that we confront this legacy rather than ignore it.”

“Something extraordinary happens when ordinary people stand up in public and read the words of these formerly secret government documents,” PEN American Center Freedom to Write and International Programs Director Larry Siems added. “To work with Doug Liman and this incredible group of readers to bring this experience to Sundance—and to record this event for a documentary film that will make the experience available to all Americans—will do more than a thousand news reports and editorials to explain how we honor the best in ourselves and in our history by collectively confronting the past.” 

The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. For more information, please visit www.aclu.org

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. PEN’s Campaign for Core Freedoms works to: protect personal privacy; preserve public access to information and a full range of voices from the United States and around the world; and promote policies that reflect a core commitment to human rights. For more information on the campaign, please visit www.pen.org
 

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• Reckoning with Torture: Memos and Testimonies from the “War on Terror”

Nancy Willen, Acme PR, (310) 963-3433, nancywillen@acmepr.net
Rachel Myers, ACLU, (212) 549-2689 or 2666, media@aclu.org
Larry Siems, PEN American Center, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org