"Put people in crazy situations and people do crazy things." - Pfc. Damien Corsetti, Bagram, Afghanistan
Winner of the 2008 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature as well as a 2008 Peabody Award, Taxi to the Dark Side takes a disturbing in-depth look at the highly questionable interrogation practices used by United States military guards on prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in the years following 9/11. Beginning with the story of an innocent young Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar, who was killed while being held in Bagram prison in 2002, Taxi to the Dark Side tells the grim, cautionary saga of how the U.S. government, desperate to draw out information from a top Al Qaeda leader detained in Guantanamo Bay, approved the use of cruel and unusual interrogation techniques that bordered on torture - which were systematically imported to other US prisons abroad. In examining the interrogation practices used in Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the film includes shocking photos, archival footage, expert commentary, and interviews with several soldiers stationed at prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq. These guards admit to using unorthodox techniques - including isolation, ceiling handcuffing, sleep deprivation, strip humiliation, "water boarding," threats by menacing dogs, sexual abuse and more - that they say were condoned and even approved by their superiors, despite being in clear violation of the humanitarian rules outlined in the Geneva Conventions.
The title of Taxi to the Dark Side refers, first, to an Afghan cabbie named Dilawar, who was apprehended by U.S. soldiers in 2002 and detained in the Bagram Air Base prison, where he died of wounds to the lower extremities after four days. Second, it evokes a statement VP Dick Cheney made to Tim Russert a few days after the 9/11 attacks. "We also have to work the dark side, if you will," said Cheney of our strategy to bring terrorists to justice. "We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world."
Taxi to the Dark Side examines the growing abuse within U.S. military prisons abroad, starting with the case of Mohammad al-Qahtani, a suspected "20th hijacker" of 9/11 who was subjected to new, humiliating interrogation tactics in an attempt to get him to reveal information in Guantanamo Bay. With the apparent approval of Sec. of State Rumsfeld, these tactics were imported to Iraq and Afghanistan, where guards subjected detainees to increasingly sadistic acts. As the film shows, after the now-famous Abu Ghraib prison photos were published in 2004, many soldiers were brought to trial, discharged and/or imprisoned - but the damage had already been done.
Taxi to the Dark Side opened to stellar reviews upon theatrical release, earning numerous awards including Best Documentary at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival and Best Documentary Screenplay at the 2008 Writers Guild of America Awards.
Taxi to the Dark Side was written, produced, directed and narrated by Alex Gibney, who is also responsible for the Oscar®-nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, The Trials of Henry Kissinger and other films. Gibney's father Frank, a U.S. veteran who died before the documentary was completed, had urged his son to make the film.
Written & Directed by Alex Gibney; Produced by Alex Gibney, Eva Orner & Susannah Shipman; Executive Producers: Don Glascoff, Robert Johnson & Sidney Blumenthal and Jedd Wider & Todd Wider; Editor: Sloane Klevin; Cinematography: Maryse Alberti & Greg Andracke; Co-Producers: Marty Fisher, Blair Foster & Sloane Klevin; Original Music by Ivor Guest and Robert Logan; Additional Music By Mario Grigorov; Narrated by Alex Gibney.