Taxi to the Dark Side is a 2007 American documentary film directed by Alex Gibney, and produced by him, Eva Orner, and Susannah Shipman.
It focuses on the December 2002 killing of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar, who was beaten to death by American soldiers while being held in extrajudicial detention and interrogated at a black site at Bagram air base.
The documentary background to the death of Dilawar, an Afghan peanut farmer, who gave up farming to become a taxi driver, and who died after several days of beating at Bagram detention centre.
Dilawar left his home of Yakubi in eastern Afghanistan in the autumn of 2002, investing his family money in a new taxi to make money in a larger city. On 1 December 2002 he and three passengers were handed over to US military officials by a local Afghan warlord, accused of organising an attack on Camp Salerno. The warlord was later found guilty of the attack himself, but had been ingratiating himself (for $1000 per person) by handing over alleged terrorists.
Dilawar was held at the prison at Bagram Air Base, and given the prisoner number BT421. Chained from the ceiling, he received multiple attacks on his thighs, a standard technique viewed as “permissible” and non-life-threatening. It is likely that the severe attack caused a blood clot which then killed him. His official death certificate created by the US military to pass to his family, with his body, was marked “homicide”. Medical conclusion stated that Dilawar’s legs were “pulpified” and, had he lived, would have required amputation.
The film explores the background of increasingly sanctioned “torture” since 9/11 in contravention of the Geneva Convention and looks at the exposures of Abu Ghraib.
Interviews include Tim Golden of The New York Times who brought the case into the international spotlight, and Moazzam Begg, a British citizen imprisoned at the same time, and witness to the events. Military interviewees include Damien Corsetti the main interrogator, and Sgt. Anthony Morden. Cpt Christopher Beiring explains how he was the only person charged (charged with dereliction of duty).
The documentary claims that of the over 83,000 people incarcerated by US forces in Afghanistan up to 2007, 93% were captured by local militiamen and exchanged for US bounty payments. Also that 105 detainees had died in captivity and that 37 of these deaths had been officially classified as homicides up to 2007.
The film also looks at Guantánamo Bay and how the same techniques were implemented there.
- It won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
- It was part of the Why Democracy? series, which consisted of ten documentary films from around the world questioning and examining contemporary democracy.
- As part of this series, the documentary was broadcast in over 30 countries from 08 to 18 October 2007.
- The BBC showed the film in its Storyville series.
Production & Filming Details
- Narrator(s): Alex Gibney.
- Director(s): Alex Gibney.
- Producer(s): Alex Gibney, Eva Orner, and Susannah Shipman.
- Writer(s): Alex Gibney.
- Music: Ivor Guest and Robert Logan.
- Cinematography: Maryse Alberti and Greg Andracke.
- Editor(s): Sloane Klevin.
- Production: Discovery Channel (in association with), Jigsaw Productions, Tall Woods, Wider Film Projects (in association with), and X-Ray Productions (as Xray Productions).
- Distributor(s): THINKFilm.
- Release Date: 30 April 2007.
- Running time: 106 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.