Taxi to the Dark Side, a documentary about an innocent Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by U.S. officials at Bagram Air Base, has received wide critical acclaim since its debut in April at the Tribeca Film Festival. The New York Times’s A.O. Scott said, “If recent American history is ever going to be discussed with the necessary clarity and ethical rigor, this film will be essential.”
Earlier this month, ThinkProgress reported that the Discovery Channel broke its contract to broadcast Taxi prior to the 2008 elections. With plans to take the company public, executives were afraid the “film’s controversial content might damage Discovery’s public offering.”
In a press release on Thursday, HBO announced that it has bought the rights to Taxi and will show the film in September 2008. TP reader Tim received a similar response from “Viewer Relations” at Discovery Communications, who said that they may also show the film on cable in 2009:
In its first, pay tv window, HBO will debut the film in September, 2008. We are proud that Taxi to the Dark Side will make its basic cable debut in 2009 on Investigation Discovery, the network dedicated to providing in-depth programs that challenge viewers’ perceptions on important issues shaping our culture and defining our world.
ThinkProgress spoke with an HBO spokeswoman who explained why the network picked up Taxi: “It’s a great film and HBO always goes after high quality docs.”
A source told ThinkProgress that Discovery agreed to the deal with HBO after intense public criticism — including from the netroots. Discovery executives were also reportedly anxious that if Gibney received the Oscar for best documentary feature, he would make a speech denouncing the network.
How convenient for Discovery that it is now willing to show the film on its own channel in 2009…after President Bush is out of office.