The Foreign Policy In Focus Annual Summer Film Series gets underway with the Academy-Award-winning Taxi to the Dark Side. Please join us and our two guest speakers, Farrah Hassen, Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, and Andy Shallal of Iraqi Voices for Peace and the owner of Busboys and Poets.
Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side is a perpetually shocking documentary about the Bush administration’s use of torture when dealing with political prisoners, with a particular focus on those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The title of Gibney’s movie is derived from the treatment meted out to an Afghani taxi driver named Dilawar, who was mistakenly fingered as a terrorist, then killed during a torture session conducted by American troops. Despite the title, Dilawar’s case is just a small part in Gibney’s jigsaw, as the director uses excruciating and comprehensive details surrounding the taxi driver’s death as a starting point in his search for the people who have permitted such incidents to occur. Gut-wrenching and fully uncensored pictures from Abu-Ghraib feature alongside interviews with military personnel (some of whom tortured Dilawar) as Gibney’s search slowly heads into the upper echelons of the military and, ultimately, into the Bush regime itself. Taxi to the Dark Side is a powerful, well-executed piece of filmmaking. Gibney’s skills as a director come to the fore as he manages to pull some surprisingly candid revelations from his subjects, while his choice of newsreel clips featuring the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are extremely well chosen. Perhaps the most eye-opening scenes come from a press trip to the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, where Gibney and others are given a tour of the facilities, including the site gift shop, where gallows humor is stretched to breaking point with the sale of souvenir t-shirts bearing the legend Behavior Modification Instructor. The film concludes with Gibney pulling the focus back to Dilawar once again, highlighting the futility of his death as a number of commentators show how torture isn’t, and never has been, an effective method for extracting information from people.
The FPIF film series is co-sponsored by Busboys and Poets Restaurant and the Progressive Intern Network.
Calendar of Films:
Taxi to the Dark Side
Best Documentary – Academy Award
Thursday, July 3
Speakers: Farrah Hassen, Newman Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
and Andy Shallal, Iraqi Voices for Peace and Owner of Busboys and Poets
Best Documentary – Philadelphia Film Festival
Friday, July 11
Speaker: Marcus Raskin, Co-Founder and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
Nominated, Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary – Sundance
Friday, July 18
Speaker: Sanho Tree, Fellow and Director of Drug Policy Project, Institute for Policy Studies
Body Of War
Best Documentary – Hampton International Film Festival and Best Documentary – National Board of Review
Friday, July 25
Speaker: Geoff Millard, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Outstanding Achievement in Documentary – Tribeca Film Festival and Audience Award for Best Documentary – Barcelona International Women’s Film Festival
Thursday, July 31
Speakers: Sarah Anderson, Fellow and Director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and Manuel Perez Rocha, Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
Foreign Policy In Focus is a network for research, analysis and action that brings together more than 600 scholars, advocates and activists who strive to make the United States a more responsible global partner. It is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington.
For more than four decades, the Institute for Policy Studies has transformed ideas into action for peace, justice, and the environment. It is a progressive multi-issue think tank.