The film traces the final days of a young Afghan man, Dilawar (many Afghans use just one name), who was arrested in 2001 by the U.S. military and brought to the hellish prison at Bagram Air Base. Five days later, Dilawar was dead, beaten and tortured to death by the United States military. Gibney obtained remarkable eyewitness accounts of Dilawar’s demise from the very low-level soldiers who beat him to death. We see the simple village that was his lifelong home and hear from people there how Dilawar had volunteered to drive the taxi, which was an important source of income for the village.Will we get a chance to see it in these parts? Hopefully. HBO has purchased the movie and plans to show it in September. If it hadn't been for the Oscar, we probably wouldn't have had the opportunity, so let's hear it for lefty Hollywood:
Dilawar had never spent the night away from home. His first sleepover was spent with arms shackled overhead, subjected to sleep and water deprivation, receiving regular beatings, including harsh knee kicks to the legs that would render his legs “pulpified.” He had been fingered as a participant in a rocket attack on the Americans, by some Afghans who were later proved to be the attackers themselves. Gibney uses the tragic story of Dilawar to open up a searing and compelling indictment of U.S. torture policy from Bush and Cheney, through Donald Rumsfeld and the author of the infamous “torture memo,” now-University of California Berkeley law professor John Yoo.
The Oscar ceremony was bereft of serious mention of the war, until Gibney rose to accept his award. He said: “Thank you very much, Academy. Here’s to all doc filmmakers. And, truth is, I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I’d make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, that simply wasn’t possible. 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. Thank you very much.”
“Taxi to the Dark Side” can be seen in movie theaters, and the Oscar will surely help open it up to more audiences.
“Taxi to the Dark Side” and Phil Donahue’s excellent Iraq war documentary, “Body of War,” have to fight for distribution. Let’s hope that Gibney’s Oscar will help open the theaters and the TV airwaves to these truly consciousness-raising films to turn this country away from the dark side and back to the light.