Friday marked the New York City premiere of Alex Gibney’s Oscar-nominated documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, the rather grim story of a young Afghani goat herder and taxi driver named Dilawar who is mistakenly suspected of being a terrorist by our military intelligence. Brought into Bagram for interrogation, Dilawar is subsequently tortured and killed by his interrogators. The ThinkFilm release gets to the darker truths, namely that not only is the intelligence questionable in the first place but that the interrogators were, in fact, young soldiers utterly untrained and inexperienced in the ways of proper interrogation techniques.
Matters are made worse when the soldiers are encouraged by their superiors to go to any lengths to get their confessions. In addition to the now prosecuted soldiers, among the interview subjects are New York Times journalists, various academics, politicians, former military brass and, most notably, Gibney’s own father who died during post-production. Frank Gibney, himself a former interrogator during World War II, best expresses the sense of outrage with the Bush Administration and as images of Bush, Cheney, Rumsefeld and Gonzalez flash across the screen it’s hard not to squirm in your seat by your own sense of frustration. There doesn’t seem to be any level of success when it comes to the administration’s war on terrorism, itself an unforgivable reminder of those who perished on 9/11.
Gibney, who also directed the award-winning Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, recently met with journalists and described the challenges and rewards of making Taxi to the Dark Side. Here are a few of clips from that interview.
Clip #1: Gibney discusses his father Frank’s experiences as an interrogator during WW II:
Clip #2 – Gibney discusses some of the difficulties inherent to the film’s structure:
Clip #3 – Gibney on the disadvantages to being an independent documentarian when trying to get an interview someone like John McCain: