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Movie Natters: July 1, 2008 Archive

Alex Gibney , Hunter S. Thompson, and the fate of "Taxi to the Dark Side"

Posted at 5:11 PM on July 1, 2008 by Euan Kerr

Alex Gibney laughed when asked about possible links between his three films "Enron:the Smartest Guys in the Room," "Taxi to the Dark Side," and "Gonzo:The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson."

He said there are no links, or maybe an 'anti-link' as he put it. "Enron" won critical raves. "Taxi," which is about the death of an Afghan man in a US run-prison and won the best documentary Oscar. Now "Gonzo" is about to hit the arthouses as a 4th of July holiday offering.

Given the much publicized phenomenon of US audiences staying away from films about the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, I asked him how the Oscar has helped the film.

"I think winning the Oscar has given the film a great advantage," he said,"In the sense that it was a film that because of its subject matter, because it's about torture and an American policy of torture, a lot of people were afraid to see it, because they were afraid that they might be somehow brutalized by this topic. And also because it's an uncomfortable subject because we may all be complicit in this policy in the sense that we have allowed it to happen."

He says the Oscar seems to have given people permission in a way to go see the movie. He admits however that it hasn't helped a great deal in terms of audiences because his distributor ran into financial problems and was unable to get the film out to take advantage of the Oscar win. He's in arbitration over the issue at the moment.

Gibney feels however that the Iraq war films may be having an influence which outweighs the gross audience numbers. He says that people tend to keep talking about them, and he describes them as a kind of depth charge in the American psyche.

"For example, "Taxi to the Dark Side" is now required viewing at the Army JAG (Judge Advocate General) school" he says. "I don't think there are a lot of people who would have predicted that a few years ago."

"Now a whole group of admirals and generals have endorsed the film," Gibney says, "And I think people will reckon with it as a vivisection of a moment in time that we will not be proud of in the future."

We'll run a piece on "Gonzo" later in the week.

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