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Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which has been missing from distribution channels for several years, is resurfacing today as an offering on the SundanceNow Doc Club, the subscription streaming-video service that is dedicated to documentaries.
Despite its awards and critical praise — the film has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes — the film, which was originally distributed by Thinkfilm, has been unavailable to viewers, tied up in prolonged legal proceedings that were triggered in 2010 when David Bergstein’s Capitol Films and four other companies, including Thinkfilm, were forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy by a group of creditors.
The fact that the film disappeared from view had long troubled Gibney, who says, “The Thinkfilm bankruptcy was a disaster, because all the titles ThinkFilm owns were put in this incredible holding pattern while we waited for the bankruptcy process to play out.” In the particular case of Taxi, which examines the U.S. use of torture in the midst of the war in Afghanistan, Gibney felt a particular urgency since it addressed issues that were to playing out as part of a national debate without Taxi being able to play a part in the discussion. “Look,” he says, “It won the Oscar. But also, the issues surrounding torture and the U.S. policy of torture are very much playing themselves out in the public arena, and one of the things Taxi did was to identify the CIA origins of some of these practices way before anyone recognized that and was willing to cop to it.”
While Gibney originally licensed rights to the film to Thinkfilm for 15 years, certain video TV and video rights had been separated out, and the film did air on HBO shortly after it was first released. “It took awhile to figure out how the rights were separated,” Gibney explains, “but that now has allowed us to go forward and for SundanceNow to license the streaming rights. It just took awhile to figure out how the rights were separated.”
Thom Powers, who oversees documentary programming at the Toronto International Film Festival and Doc NYC and who also serves a curator of the SundanceNow Doc Club, was aware of Gibney’s efforts to reclaim the film and assisted in bringing it to Doc Club, which will be offering the film for a limited period. “Taxi to the Dark Side examines a troubling chapter in America’s recent history. We at Doc Club are honored to create the chance for new audiences to engage with Gibney’s revelatory investigation. This is contemporary documentary making at its best,” he says.
SundanceNow Doc Club, which is owned and operated by AMC Networks, is available through monthly subscriptions on the web and platforms like iPhone, Android, Roku and Chromecast.
In addition to Taxi, it is also adding to its lineup Jafar Panahi’s 2011 documentary This Is Not a Film, which has been similarly unavailable for streaming.
Of securing Taxi, Linda Pan, senior vp new digital business for AMC Networks, says, “Documentaries are meant to be seen and discussed, and it’s so important to connect audiences with great docs that may not be easily accessible for one reason or another. We are proud to make a deeply impactful doc available online for the first time in many years.”
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