Muckraker Muckraker


by Eva Steele-Saccio Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

February 16, 2007

Alex Gibney tells stories you weren't meant to hear.

Director Alex Gibney's film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room reveals the corruption and greed behind one of the most infuriating corporate swindles in U.S. history. Ironically, Gibney sees Enron's advertising slogan, "Ask Why," as the perfect motto for his own investigative work."The traditional role of the press and certain types of filmmakers is to expose corruption," says Gibney, the 52-year-old director and producer also behind The Trials of Henry Kissinger and Soldiers in the Army of God, an HBO documentary that explores the extremes of the antiabortion movement. "I have become interested in how corruption works and happens, the kind of deception that goes on as you hide the crime." Framing issues within incisive human-interest stories, Gibney's films draw from fiction storytelling techniques. "Telling a rip-roaring story is important," he says. "More and more I am interested in the character issues, on a personal or social level."Taxi to the Dark Side is Gibney's most recent character-based documentary. The film examines American policy on torture through the story of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar. Falsely accused of attacking a U.S. military base in Khost, Afghanistan in 2002, Dilawar was apprehended by Afghan militia and later detained by the American military. Despite the fact that many of his interrogators believed him to be innocent, Dilawar was brutally tortured and died in U.S. custody. Chillingly, the soldier in charge was reassigned to the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
"I have become interested in how corruption works and happens, the kind of deception that goes on as you hide the crime."
Denied access to the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, where Dilawar was killed, Gibney pieced together a narrative from footage shot in Guantanamo, where some of the passengers in Dilawar's taxi were sent (they were detained at the same time as he was); the Afghan village where his family resides; and an interview with a former detainee who witnessed Dilawar's multiple beatings. Gibney also interviewed the perpetrators of the crime, soldiers who had been prosecuted by the U.S. government for crimes they believe they had been ordered to commit."Throughout is a discussion of how harsh torture techniques migrate like a virus, becoming more intense and changing form," says Gibney. "Torture ends up corrupting everything, including the people who have to practice it-twisting and violating the very rules we are fighting to preserve." It's the same principle he saw at Enron: "A virus of greed infected everyone, and that one business ended up corrupting the rest of the business world as everyone invested in Enron," he says. "The guys at Enron didn't go out to commit a crime, but when their dream didn't come true, they couldn't bear the thought of losing it."In the end, he explains, "You don't find someone sitting in a dark tower saying, ‘I am going to go out and commit a crime.' These are patriotic people who end up undermining the very foundation of the structure they go out to protect."
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