Sunday, May 04, 2008

Taxi to the Dark Side, Standard Operating Procedure, and more

Finally watched Taxi to the Dark Side, playing at the Granville 7. It's yet another film where the content - Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and human rights abuses in the so-called war on terror - is important enough that it overshadows a ham-fisted presentation: the film has, like The Unforseen, a too-emotive soundtrack, and, more seriously, vastly overemphasizes the death of a single prisoner at Bagram Airforce Base in Iraq, using the old TV-news strategem of giving us a strong central character to identify with, in this case a victim. Alas, there is only so much the film has to say about the life and death of Dilawar, the taxi driver seized, imprisoned, and handcuffed with arms stretched to the ceiling, and beaten about the legs by US soldiers at Bagram until they turned to pulp: he was someone who didn't want to work on the farm, became a taxi driver, had a daughter, and, with no solid evidence even for imprisoning him, was killed by US soldiers who believed they were just doing what they were told, as part of interrogating him. He's no more or less important than the previous prisoner killed at Bagram, in roughly the same period, who is given about a minute of screentime, or any of the individuals tortured at Abu Ghraib, whose names are not mentioned; but we cut back to Dilawar's photograph again and again, to drill home some sort of emotional connection -- see? we killed this sweet-looking young man. See? It's a trite enough approach - condescending, really, as if we're too stupid to follow the story, or too apathetic to care about it, without one specific human tragedy to hook onto - that it distracts a bit from the amazing amount of information contained in this film, which connects the dots from Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfield to Gitmo and thence Bagram and Abu Ghraib.

Though in the end I'd recommend Taxi to the Dark Side to anyone interested, I'm really hoping Errol Morris does a better job with his consideration of the Abu Ghraib torture photographs, and what they mean: Standard Operating Procedure, not yet playing in Vancouver. I just bumped into an article co-written by Morris on Sabrina Harman, one of the reservists shown posing with her thumb up in the torture pics, posted to the right. She describes even this photo - why she is smiling, and how "bad it looks." (Wiki article on her here). She took many of the photos herself, and, I'm reading now in the Errol Morris interview in the new Cinema Scope, actually has images from Abu Ghraib tattooed on her arms. She seems a complex woman - she's also a lesbian, and, despite her grin in this picture, clearly knew what she was doing was wrong. I'm off to read the Morris article right now... I can understand his deep need to try to figure out what the hell these photographs mean.

1 comment:

ammacinn said...

I've been directed to the following site:

It deals with MKULTRA and ARTICHOKE, the use of drugs during interrogations, and so forth. McCoy, the author of A QUESTION OF TORTURE mentioned therein, is interviewed in TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE, so it's definitely apropos...