Popular Posts: Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th June 2008

Here are the most popular posts in the past week on FILMdetail:

  1. Interview: Stephen Morris on Joy Division
  2. Thundercats movie in the works
  3. The Most Useful Movie Websites 2.0
  4. Iron Man After Credits Scene
  5. The Dark Knight Prologue at the London IMAX
  6. The Cinema Review: The Edge of Love / Teeth
  7. Interview: Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron on Hancock
  8. Frost/Nixon to open the 52nd London Film Festival
  9. Julian Schnabel heckled by Sean Young at the DGA Awards
  10. London Film Festival 2007: Into the Wild

Stats courtesy of Google Analytics

DVD Pick: Taxi to the Dark Side

Taxi to the Dark Side is a riveting and deeply disturbing exploration of the Bush administration’s policy on torture and interrogation.

It focuses on the controversial death in custody of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar, who in 2002 was beaten to death by US soldiers at the Bagram Air Base.

Directed by Alex Gibney (who made the 2005 documentary Enron: The Samrtest Guys in the Room) it examines in clinical detail the events surrounding Dilawar’s death, featuring interviews with the troops who caused it and contributions from many figures involved in the story.

The film is meticulous in examining the evidence and explores how the court-martialed soldiers involved were acting upon ambiguous policies that tacitly encouraged torture.

It also makes the connection between the detention tactics used at Bagram and those at Abu Ghraib.

Gibney interviewed a highly impressive array of contributors including: Carlotta Gall and Tim Golden (the New York Times journalists who helped uncover the story); Alberto J Mora (retired General Counsel of the U.S. Navy); Lawrence Wilkerson (formewr chief of staff to Colin Powell); Jack Cloonan (former FBI special agent) and Clive Stafford Smith (a lawyer who respresents detainees at Guantanamo Bay).

Back in February the film deservedly won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and is one of the most important to be released in the last five years.

Revolver have done a fine job with the UK DVD, with over 70 minutes of extra footage including:

  • Commentary: Director Alex Gibney which goes into more detail about the film and the choices he made dring the production and edit.
  • Interview with Frank Gibney: The director’s father – who was himself a US Navy interrogator during World War 2 – speaks about his experiences questioning Japanese POW’s and his anger at the current US policies.
  • Outtakes: Some of the sequences which didn’t make the final cut are very interesting, including: a sequence about a SERE school (a US ‘survival’ boot camp) who supplied methods to the US army at Guantanamo Bay; a more detailed sequence involving Tony Lagouranis highlighting the absurdity of interrogating suspects in Iraq who were innocent and Carlotta Gaul talking about Dilawar’s family and village; a sequence about a website selling a restraint chair that was used to break a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay; Clive Stafford Smith discussing his client Binyam Mohammed who was tortured in horrific ways; former US president Jimmy Carter discussing the ‘gross, unprecedented violation’ of US principles that the Bush adminstration has engaged in.
  • Alex Gibney Interviews: There are three interviews with the director on PBS Now, Link TV with Robert Scheer (editor of Truthdig) and Democracy Now (where he discusses the Discovery Channel‘s shameful decision not screen the film).

This is the trailer:

This is an interview Alex Gibney did with CBC earlier this year where he discusses the film:

Check out this longer interview David Poland did with Alex Gibney a few months back in which they discuss the film and various related issues:

Taxi to the Dark Side is out now on DVD from Revolver Entertainment

> Official UK site for Taxi to the Darkside (you can pre-order the DVD via Amazon UK)
> Taxi to the Dark Side at the IMDb
> Read other reviews of the film at Metacritic
> Watch Katie Couric of CBS News talk about the film
> Jig Saw Productions – Alex Gibney’s production company
> Listen to our recent podcast review of Taxi to the Dark Side
> If you are in or around London go and see see the film at the ICA
> Official site for the charity Reprieve

Tartan Films goes into administration

UK indie distributor Tartan Films has gone into administration.

Screen Daily report:

UK distributor Tartan Films has gone into administration, ending months of speculation.

The business, founded in 1982 by Hamish McAlpine, is believed to have made more than 20 staff redundant.

The news has come as no surprise after months of discussion about the company’s finance.

Last year, the business restructured with veteran managing director Laura De Casto leaving the business.

Head of acquisitions Jane Giles also left the business to become head of content at the British Film Institute. Other veterans who left the company in recent months included publicity veteran Sarah Bemand.

The company announced a $6m investment package in November 2007 but sources said that ultimately fell through. The company has announced no new acquisitions since that time.

This is really sad news – as one of the key remaining independents in UK cinema they brought a lot of interesting films to a wider audience including: Super Size Me, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Capturing the Friedmans, The Cooler, Ivan’s XTC, My Architect, Être et avoir, Irreversible, Secretary, Funny Games, Tesis, La Haine, Safe, Cronos, Hard Boiled, Man Bites Dog, The Double Life of Veronique, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Cyrano de Bergerac and A Short Film About Killing.

They also released a raft of important Asian titles under their Tartan Asia Extreme label, including: Ring, Audition, The Eye, Battle Royale and Oldboy.

Their library also includes over 30 Ingmar Bergman titles.

Screen Daily quote Mark Batey, CEO of the Film Distributors Association as saying:

“It’s a sad day. The company had an extrordinary track record of distributing films from all over the world and it has become a brand in the way that not many publishers of intellectual property in any sector have managed.”

Hamish McAlpine founded the company in 1984 and it merged with Metro Pictures in 1992 (becoming Metro Tartan) beofre going back to being Tartan Films.

Variety have more details:

Last October Tartan announced it had received a cash injection of £3 million ($6.2 million) in the form of a convertible loan from a private investor and also had restructured its Brit operation, with managing director Laura De Casto ankling.

The company’s theatrical and home entertainment departments, previously run out of separate London offices, were also merged into one entity based at Tartan’s head office.

Tartan USA, the company’s U.S. arm, announced at this year’s Cannes that it was being foreclosed. Film print and advertising financing company Palisades Media Corp. has since bought the U.S. rights to its library.

There has been no official statement from execs about the immediate future of the company, but it looks likely that liquidators and accountants will come in to assess the company’s assets before selling them off.

> Screen Daily, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter on the news
> Official site for Tartan Films (still up at the time of writing)
> A list of films released by Tartan over at Wikipedia