Documentaries DVD & Blu-ray

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