Taxi to the Dark Side

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Taxi to the Dark Side
File:Taxi to the dark side.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alex Gibney
Produced by Alex Gibney
Eva Orner
Susannah Shipman
Written by Alex Gibney
Music by Ivor Guest
Robert Logan
Edited by Sloane Klevin
Distributed by THINKFilm
Release dates
  • April 30, 2007 (2007-04-30)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Mugshot of taxi driver Dilawar at the Bagram prison where he died.

Taxi to the Dark Side is a 2007 documentary film directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney, and produced by him, Eva Orner and Susannah Shipman. It won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It focuses on the December 2002 killing of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar,[1] who was beaten to death by American soldiers while being held in extrajudicial detention and interrogated at the Parwan Detention Facility at Bagram base.

Taxi to the Dark Side examines the USA's policy on torture and interrogation in general, specifically the CIA's use of torture and their research into sensory deprivation. The film includes discussions against the use of torture by political and military opponents, as well as the defense of such methods; attempts by Congress to uphold the standards of the Geneva Convention forbidding torture; and popularization of the use of torture techniques in TV series such as 24.

It is part of the BBC Why Democracy? series, which consists of ten documentary films from around the world questioning and examining contemporary democracy. As part of the series, Taxi to the Dark Side was broadcast in over 30 different countries around the world from October 8–18, 2007. The BBC cut the film to 79 minutes for broadcast.


The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 28, 2007.[2]

Reception and awards

Taxi to the Dark Side appeared on some critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Premiere magazine named it the fifth best film of 2008,[3] and Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named it the seventh best film of 2008.[3] The film also scored 100% for critic approval, out of 91 reviews, on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

It was named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of 15 films on its documentary feature Oscar shortlist in November 2007.[5][6] On February 24, 2008, in his acceptance speech for the "Best Documentary Feature" Academy Award, Gibney said:

This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us, Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let’s hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light.[7]

It also won a Peabody Award in 2007 "for its sober, meticulous argument that what happened to a hapless Afghani was not an aberration but, rather, the inevitable result of a consciously approved, widespread policy."[8]

Controversies and legal disputes

Alex Gibney and the crew of Taxi to the Darkside at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards

In June 2007, the Discovery Channel bought the rights to broadcast Taxi to the Dark Side. However, in February 2008, it made public its intention never to broadcast the documentary due to its controversial nature.[9] HBO then bought rights to the film and announced that it would be broadcast in September 2008, after which the Discovery Channel announced it would broadcast Taxi to the Dark Side in 2009.

In June 2008, Gibney's company filed for arbitration, arguing that THINKFilm failed to properly distribute and promote the film.[10][11] He is suing for over a million dollars in damages. Gibney stated that the film has grossed only $280,000.

See also


  1. Eliza Griswold (May 2, 2007). "The other Guantánamo. Black Hole". The New Republic. Retrieved 2007-05-03. [dead link]
  2. Beckey Bright (April 28, 2007). "Director Explores 'Dark Side' Of U.S. Treatment of Detainees". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 2, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2009. 
  4. "Rotten Tomatoes review of Taxi to the Dark Side". Rotten Tomatoes. 2008-01-22. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  5. "80th Annual Academy Awards Nominees". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2008-01-22. Archived from the original on 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  6. "Shortlist for docu Oscar unveiled". The Hollywood Reporter. 2007-11-20. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  7. UCLA Magazine
  8. 67th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2008.
  9. Democracy Now! 12 Feb 2008 transcript, retrieved on 12 Feb 2008.
  10. Christine Kearney (2008-06-26). "US documentary maker seeks damages over Oscar film". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  11. Charles Lyons (June 26, 2008). "Filmmaker Says Distributor Failed Him". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 

External links