The President Versus David Hicks (2004)

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Released 10-May-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Menu Animation
Gallery-Read News Excerpts
Trailer-Keep The River On Your Right
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 81:13 (Case: 83)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Curtis Levy
Bentley Dean

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring David Hicks
Terry Hicks
Luke Crowe
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Felicity Fox

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    On the Friday before the weekend that I watched this DVD for review, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try the Guantanamo detainees were illegal. The military commissions were established by President George W. Bush to try suspected members of al-Qaeda and were a key assertion of his executive power following on from the September 11 terrorists attacks and his proclaimed War On Terror. A five-justice majority ruled that the commissions, which were outlined by Bush in a military order on 13 November 2001, were neither authorised by federal law nor required by military necessity. Even more damning was the ruling that they ran foul of the Geneva Conventions. Friday was not a good day for Bush who also had to endure singing by the Elvis-loving Japanese Prime Minister in a visit by the pair to Graceland.

    What this Supreme Court ruling means for the plight of Australia's detainee, David Hicks, is still unclear. These sorts of decisions often mean more delays and more costly legal battles and so what is probably clear is that after five years in custody at the American base in Cuba, Hicks is still unlikely to be coming home any time soon.

    Which brings us to this film. The President Versus David Hicks, by directors Curtis Levy and Bentley Dean, traces the plight of not David Hicks directly, since access to the man accused of being an illegal combatant has been denied to all but his lawyer since he was captured by US forces in 2001, but rather Hicks' father Terry. A pretty ordinary Aussie battler facing an extraordinary set of challenges.

    After the September 11 atrocities, the American forces set about rounding up anyone whom they considered party to acts of terrorism and members of al-Qaeda. This included anyone fighting for the Taliban government in Afghanistan. In December of that year Australian David Hicks was captured in Afghanistan by the US allied Northern Alliance and handed over to the US military. With around 600 other detainees (the US deliberately avoids referring to them as POWs to circumvent the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of Prisoners of War) he was moved to a naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for interrogation. As of the day of writing this review (2 July 2006) he is still there and still without a trial.

    The burden the last five years has placed on David's family is hard to comprehend. Their only contact with him has been a small handful of letters, complete with American military censorship. There are many questions that his family obviously need to answer and this film tries to make some sense of it and possibly bring some more balanced publicity to David's plight.

    Just how does a kid with an inquisitive mind and a passion for bugs become a Muslim and fighter for the Taliban? Terry Hicks sets out to answer this question as he traces his son's journey from broken relationships in Adelaide to a cattle station in outback South Australia, then remarkably to the war in Kosovo and on to Afghanistan. He uncovers some things that probably don't paint David in a flattering light, but all he wants is for his son to have a fair trial. Find him guilty he says, he can live with that, but do it now and do it fairly.

    After interviews with both Terry and his wife, plus some thoughts from a few of David's other friends, Terry travels in the heart of northern Afghanistan close to the border of Pakistan where the Taliban are still active. It is here he meets a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who knew his son well and speaks of him with much praise. He was a good Muslim the man says. Terry journeys to Canberra but fails to gain an audience with the Prime Minister and then on to New York where he sits in a cage on a busy sidewalk to illustrate the plight of his son and the hundreds of others.

    This is a telling insight into how Australia's most high profile political prisoner came to be where he is and the battle his father has fought to try and bring about some justice for his son.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    Don't expect too much in terms of a vibrant or colourful image here. The film was shot on hand-held video and is often filmed in less than ideal conditions with poor or harsh light. There is a little grain evident on many of the shots with poor lighting, but there is no low level noise.

    Colours aren't exactly what I'd call vibrant, but the style of film and the content matter presented doesn't really call for heaps of bright colour.

    There are no compression artefacts and there are no video artefacts

    Disappointingly there are no subtitles available.

    The disc is single layered so there is no layer change present.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There's only one audio option available here, this being a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

    The dialogue is prominent and well placed in the soundtrack, though the quality of the recording is at times on par with that found in a home video style of production. There is quite a bit of wind and general chatter going on in the background in many of the outdoor scenes in Afghanistan which can severely interfere with what you are trying to hear. There are no audio sync problems.

    There's a little music present, mostly what sounds to be of a middle eastern origin.

    There is no surround or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Menu Animation

Gallery - Read News Excerpts

    Five newspaper excerpts from 2006 featuring stories on the latest David Hicks developments.


    Bonus trailers for other Umbrella titles including A Decade Under The Influence and the double feature Cane Toads and The Natural History of the Chicken.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc has yet to be released in Region 1.


    The President Versus David Hicks should be compulsory viewing for all those who have drawn quick conclusions on the innocence or guilt of the man mainstream media has labelled the "Guantanamo Bay Detainee". The plight of David's father Terry Hicks is quite gut-wrenching as he seeks to learn more about what has happened to his son. His frustration with the US and Australian governments and their lack of recognition and action is palpable and moving.

    The video and audio presentations are about the quality expected for what is obviously a low-budget film.

    The extras are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Friday, July 14, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews NONE
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