Taxi To The Darkside
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes; Audio Commentary by Alex Gibney; Documents and photo gallery.
IN December 2002, a young Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar was arrested on suspicion of being involved in a rocket attack on an Afghan checkpoint and taken to the US prison at Bagram. Five days later he died from the wounds he received as part of his interrogation without trial. He was innocent of the charges.
Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning documentary Taxi To The Darkside explores the American policies that led to the tragedy outlined above and tries to expose the men ultimately responsible. It also examines the point of torture in war and questions whether it ultimately creates more problems than it solves.
It’s a probing, insightful investigation that isn’t afraid to put America’s leading politicians on the spot, as well as those former servicemen who had a hand in Dilawar’s treatment. Several of the people interviewed on camera are men who were actually court-martialled in connection with Dilawar’s murder.
Needless to say, it’s not an easy watch, featuring some horrific stories of how captives are “turned” and humiliated, both physically and psychologically, as well as some of the damning photographs that emerged from both Bagram and its more notorious counterpart, Abu Ghraib.
It also exposes the role that Guantanamo Bay has played in the furthering of America’s torture methods, as well as the involvement of key political figures such as Vice President Dick Cheney and, ultimately, George Bush.
Gibney, who previously directed the Oscar nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, was moved to make the film by his late father, a former navy interrogator who had become angry about what was being done to the rule of law concerning intelligence gathering.
In doing so, he exposes some startling truths about how American politicians continue to “interpret” the terms of the Geneva Convention so that they’re left deliberately cloudy for those carrying out orders, and even exposes how the American President went so far as to change the constitution to exonerate himself from any of the blame from the fallout of Abu Ghraib.
Perhaps most astonishing, though, is the revelation that the invasion of Iraq was approved based on the torture-induced confession of a suspect that was later proved false.
The film even goes so far as to suggest that torture creates more acts of terrorism than it prevents, providing fuel for the fanatics who can use such human rights violations as recruitment tools.
It is slightly one-sided, of course, in that the one alternative it does pose isn’t backed up with any statistics. But there’s no denying that it provides plenty of food for thought, whilst underlining the point that there are no easy answers when it comes to fighting the war on terror.
How do you deal with a fanatic? And can we really trust our politicians? Perhaps most relevantly, should they be allowed to absolve themselves from blame in the case of victims like Dilawar? These are all important questions posed by a very important, must-see film.
Running time: 1hr 46mins
UK DVD Release: June 30, 2008