Alex Gibney's TAXI FROM THE DARK SIDE is a perpetually shocking documentary about the Bush administration's use of torture when dealing with political prisoners, with a particular focus on those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The title of Gibney's movie is derived from the treatment meted out to an Afghani taxi driver named Dilawar, who was mistakenly fingered as a terrorist, then killed during a torture session conducted by American troops. Despite the title, Dilawar's case is just a small part in Gibney's jigsaw, as the director uses excruciating and comprehensive details surrounding the taxi driver's death as a starting point in his search for the people who have permitted such incidents to occur. Gut-wrenching and fully uncensored pictures from Abu-Ghraib feature alongside interviews with military personnel (some of whom tortured Dilawar) as Gibney's search slowly heads into the upper echelons of the military and, ultimately, into the Bush regime itself.
TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE is a powerful, well-executed piece of filmmaking. Gibney's skills as a director come to the fore as he manages to pull some surprisingly candid revelations from his subjects, while his choice of newsreel clips featuring the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are extremely well chosen. Perhaps the most eye-opening scenes come from a press trip to the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, where Gibney and others are given a tour of the facilities, including the site gift shop, where gallows humor is stretched to breaking point with the sale of souvenir t-shirts bearing the legend Behavior Modification Instructor. The film concludes with Gibney pulling the focus back to Dilawar once again, highlighting the futility of his death as a number of commentators show how torture isn't, and never has been, an effective method for extracting information from people.
Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature 2007