Taxi to the Dark Side was produced and directed by Alex Gibney in 2007. It is an Oscar award winning documentary and remains one of the most important films in the last five years. The documentary is quite devastating and presents a scrupulously argued account of how torture and numerous other practices, which are outlawed by the Geneva conventions and are repugnant to the civilized society, have turned out to be the official American policy after the 9/11 terrorist attack. The documentary examines the policy of the United States of America on interrogation and torture, especially the CIA use of torture, and research in sensory deprivation. Several techniques are applied by the American security agencies to prevent terrorist attack. For instance, the documentary uses abduction and subsequent torture and murder of an innocent taxi driver at the notorious Bagram air base to show and reveal the ever-widening stain of evil that have spread to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. The taxi driver is reported to have died of natural causes, despite the driver’s legs being “pulpified”, according to the military pathologist. It also reveals the chain of responsibility reaching down from the commander-in-chief of the armed forces (president) to the lowest interrogator and prison guard (Bright, 2007).
In this film, several people emerge with dignity and honor. This is one method of documentary technique to show that despite the US being such cruel on terrorism suspects, there are also people who can be counted on to protect human dignity. They include investigative journalists, senior officials in the government challenging the evolving policy, and few politicians refusing to accept bureaucratic obfuscation. Some people do terrible things in the documentary but invite sympathy from the audience. For instance, the simple junior soldiers were untrained for their tasks and believed that they were doing their duties honorably. Other characters in the film are beyond contempt. The vice president and his main legal advisers, Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, are examples of characters who cannot be blamed for any deeds in the government and policies made to counter terrorism. Clooney, an FBI interrogator argues that showing kindness to a suspect can manipulate a prisoner to give valuable information other than using violent means. The documentary is long and detailed. However, it is not easy to watch due to the cruel episodes that depict the true nature of the United States operation to capture terrorists (Bright, 2007).
As discussed above, there are several documentary techniques used in the Taxi to the Dark Side documentary. One of the most prominent techniques is the use of the interview. Alex Gibney applies interview techniques throughout the documentary. In an interview, Clooney, an FBI interrogator argues that showing kindness to a suspect can manipulate a prisoner to give valuable information other than using cruel means. Clooney argues that the use of violence to gather information does not promote humanity and at most times leads to the victim giving false answers to protect himself or herself. In addition, the suspects being tortured may be not guilty, therefore, resulting in injustice to an innocent person. For instance, the taxi driver in the documentary was absolutely innocent. The American investigators capture and torture him until he dies. This is a great injustice to the suspect, as argued by Clooney. This growing trend of using cruelty and torture to gather information is on the rise (Bright, 2007).
The use of reconstructions is also evident in the documentary. Real-life scenes are reconstructed artificially and are acted out in the documentary based on the information of the film. There is a familiar scene shown when watching the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. There are goggles, headphones, an orange jumpsuit and respiratory masks. This is known as sensory deprivation. It involves sitting in a silent, dark room void of touching or human contact including oneself. Sleep deprivation technique to acquire information is also used by the military forces and interrogators. The documentary reveals facts that prisoners are forced to stand for long hours in one area with arms outstretched across. Extreme cool and heat conditions are also used in the film (Bright, 2007).
Exposition is used in the documentary as the important subjects of the film and is introduced at the beginning and during the course of the documentary. At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to a very kind and honest man, the taxi driver, who is captured by the US military force after picking up passengers. One would wonder why an innocent and honest man would be taken to a prison, and interrogated for five days, which resulted in his death. We are introduced to the cruelty and torture of the US military forces on suspects of terrorists in pursuit of attaining information from them. The film also seems to depict that torture of any king geared to obtaining information does not offer an effective way of achieving the stated goal. When the prisoners and suspects are abused or confronted with dogs, the suspects’ instincts would blurt out any claim despite its authenticity (Bright, 2007).
Archival footage is utilized in the film to reveal the hardships that detainees undergo in the hands of the US military forces. The film also shows naked images of detainees being tortured at Abu Ghraib, and doing the degrading lewd behaviors on the soldiers’ demand. The clips last for one minute, even though they reveal a highly disturbing picture and serve to enforce the documentary’s message to the United States practice and endorsement of torture and inhumanity. The documentary reveals the mistreatment and torture of men in prisons with no representation of women treatment, probably because very few women are detained compared to men (Bright, 2007).
The film, therefore, shows various documentary techniques employed to bring out the real picture of what happens in the military prisons and how the detainees in those prisons are treated. It shows the cruelty of and torture from the military forces towards the prisoners to release information on terror attacks. It conveys the message of the need for the United States to stop using these methods to acquire valuable information regarding security matters (Bright, 2007).
Bright, Beckey (April 28, 2007). Director explores 'dark side' of U.S. treatment of detainees. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB117763344614784224