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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Taxi to the Dark Side

    This past Monday, the Charles B. Wang Center presented the first in a series of fall programs, a film titled Taxi to the Dark Side. Taxi focuses on Dilawar, a taxi driver from Afghanistan who eventually dies due to beatings from guards and interrogators at Bagram Air Force Base in 2002. It then literally pans out onto a global picture, as we learn how the United States’ involvement during the Bush administration brought about this dire end.

    Directed by Alex Gibney, an academy award nominee for Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room, the event was co-sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Northern Brookhaven Arts Council. Although it is quite a controversial way to start off the fall season, there could not have been a more apt choice when it comes to presenting the bitter facts in the most straightforward manner.

    What I liked and hated at the same time about Taxi was its uncensored portrayal of the abuses at Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. This was well-supported by an occasional sprinkling of hard-hitting facts: of more than 100 deaths that occur in U.S. custody, 37 are officially declared homicides by the U.S. military. Furthermore, only seven percent of Guantanamo detainees are apprehended by the military. The rest are captured by Afghans and Pakistanis who have their own running agendas. In fact, Dilawar’s accuser is responsible for the rocket attacks for which he was accused.

    In relation to the film, its executive producer, Sidney Blumenthal has said, ‘Taxi to the Dark Side [has] its roots in sensory deprivation experiments decades ago that guided the CIA in understanding torture; the opposition within the administration from the military and other significant figures ‘hellip; the congressional battle to restore the standard of the Geneva Convention that forbids torture ‘hellip; and the sudden popularity of the Fox TV show ’24’ in translating torture into entertainment by means of repetitious formulations of the bogus ticking-time-bomb scenario.’

    The abuse descriptions are shot among snippets from the President George Bush’s State of the Union address where he gets applauded for saying that the U.S. has hunted and murdered foreign nationals. Even a conversation between Vice President Dick Cheney and Tim Russert leaves one open-mouthed at the string of lies in the name of national security. Here Cheney compares the U.S. to a rogue cop in any guy movie that has to now throw the book away and make up its own rules.

    It is true that the film has elements of documentaries, such as Fahrenheit 911 and TV shows, such as 24, but what is more significant is that it explores everything at a human and relatable level. Watching this film is not simply a reminder of some of the worst atrocities committed by the U.S. because I doubt that’s where Gibney’s intentions lay. Instead of making us feel guilty or embarrassed, it is an educational and hopeful venture. Members of the Stony Brook community who missed this opportunity should open themselves up and justify at least one viewing of this film.

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