No stranger to controversy, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room") is set to release perhaps his most politically divisive project yet, "Taxi To The Dark Side."
This exposé examines the case of an Afghan taxi driver, known as Dilawar, who was killed while under interrogation by U.S. soldiers at the Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan. It is alleged that members of the American military tortured the taxi driver to death.
"On the third day, the interrogators pretty much knew he [Dilawar] was innocent, but they tortured him for another five days until he died," Gibney said in a recent interview with The ShowBuzz.
"Taxi To The Dark Side" will perhaps gain the most attention for its exclusive never-before-seen footage of the Bagram holding cells. Aside from traveling to Afghanistan, Gibney also gained the opportunity to capture candid footage of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
The film includes harrowing video recordings and photographs of alleged torture prison chambers, which Gibney says he obtained through his meetings with several relatively young American soldiers in Afghanistan who were more than willing to speak on camera.
"These are totally untrained kids, who are put in a situation and told, 'the gloves are off; do what you need to do.' They don't speak the language…they have very little understanding," Gibney said of the soldiers who interrogate prisoners at Bagram. "I think a lot of them [the interrogators] are now deeply scarred people because they were asked to do things that they don't feel so good about," he said.
"Many of the soldiers I've talked to are certainly disillusioned. Almost all of them I talked to feel let down by the civilian administration," Gibney added.
Gibney argues that politicians in the Bush administration - in particular Vice President Dick Cheney and Justice Department official John Yoo - need to be held accountable if they have in fact committed any crimes.
"I don't think we can really go forward unless we've reckoned with the past. In other words, unless we hold some people accountable, we can't really go forward and hold our heads high," he said.
Gibney's previous work, which centered on Enron, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, although it ultimately lost to the audience favorite "March Of The Penguins."
Now, "Taxi To The Dark Side" is gaining considerable Oscar buzz as it won both Best Documentary Feature awards at the Chicago and Tribeca Film Festivals.
Although Gibney will have to wait to see how the public react to his film, he did note that members of the Bush Administration will most likely not be running to the multiplexes to catch his film anytime soon.
"Taxi To The Dark Side" opens in New York and Los Angeles on January 18.
By Ken Lombardi