Private Project

Unlawful Combatant

American contractors endure a surprise workplace inspection.

  • Jackson Fatheree
  • Jack Fatheree
  • Chris Harder
    Thunder Road
  • Madeline Power
  • Jack Fatheree
  • Bridge Stuart
    Key Cast
  • Adam El-Sharkawi
    Key Cast
  • Hannah Elder
    Key Cast
  • Nican Robinson
    Key Cast
  • Dustin Hahn
    Key Cast
  • Will Madden
    Key Cast
  • Joey Heyworth
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 7, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Sick 'n' Wrong Film Festival
    Orlando, FL
    United States
    December 11, 2021
    World Premiere
  • FestivalFilosofia, Section: "It is not the Ennesimo FestivalFilosofia"
    September 17, 2022
    International Premiere
Director Biography - Jackson Fatheree

Jack Fatheree is a filmmaker and photographer from Bethesda, Maryland, USA. He has a BA in Media from University of California San Diego. He has worked in film production since 2017, mostly in Austin, TX and mostly as a production assistant. He is interested in depicting and dissecting the social and psychological structures that shape our material world. Unlawful Combatant is his first film.

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Director Statement

This is a film dealing with a subject I have studied since I was a child. Like many young boys, I thought the military was the coolest thing, and our culture overwhelmingly pushes the idea that US foreign policy is conducted ethically and professionally. Every conflict is pitched with the moral certitude of World War II. Learning about the US rendition and torture program caused a massive shift in my worldview as a kid.

I tried to depict the dark reality in this film. After the 9/11 attacks, very real and understandable anger morphed into xenophobia and a War on Terror which expanded across the globe. Everything depicted in this film was really carried out by US military personnel, private contractors, or intelligence agencies from other countries under our direction. Many innocent people were swept up in the drag net of anti-terror and subjected to horrific psychological and physical damage. The story of Khalid El-Masry was a specific inspiration for this short.

The torture program never delivered any useful intelligence, but there seemed to be a sort of nihilistic "why not" attitude among many calling the shots; for example, higher ups in the CIA felt that an extralegal detention and torture program was unnecessary and would likely be ineffective, but they followed through with it anyway because they were given the opportunity to do so with impunity. These methods continue to be used by our allies today, in conflicts like the Saudi war in Yemen.

Hopefully, this film is about more than just the specific issue of torture, but also the ways in which we try to ignore suffering, deny our culpability, or use progressive language to avoid addressing structural issues. If no one at the top is held responsible for crimes like the torture program, then what basis do we have to claim moral superiority?