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MediaWatch:Film
Smackdown
MPAA Rejects "Taxi" Image of Detainee
Documentary Poster Banned Because Hooded Prisoner "Suggests" Torture
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 12/20/2007 11:25 AM ET
Horror flicks depict a wide variety of fictional human torture and terror on movie posters, but the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is apparently taking a stand against the public display of the reality that faces detainees in America's war on terror.

The MPAA recently rejected a poster designed for the award-winning documentary Taxi to the Darkside, the film's director/producer tells IraqSlogger, because they found the photo of the hooded prisoner "suggested" torture might be going on.

"They said the hood had to go," says filmmaker Alex Gibney.

The MPAA apparently felt the scene depicted would be "inappropriate" because the movie posters would be seen everywhere, even by children. But that consideration did not stop them from greenlighting digitally-produced--but extremely graphic--depictions of brutality for films such as Hostel and the Saw series.

Gibney thinks he knows the process behind their thinking because it's a perspective he has encountered repeatedly during his time making Taxi to the Darkside. Uncomfortable knowledge regarding the US treatment of detainees is widely held, but people don't want to be reminded about it. It's a kind of "You can do it, but just don't show it," principle, he says.

The MPAA does not comment on the reasons for their decisions, nor do they post their guidelines publicly, though all the standard no-nos for public consumption, such as graphic depictions of violence, drug use, nudity, are obvious limitations

Last year the MPAA rejected a poster for the Road to Guantanamo. The image of a hooded and bound detainee had to be replaced by one tightly focused on the prisoner's shackled hands.

But for Gibney, the stark reality his poster depicts represents the essential truth of his film. The photo's difficult journey into existence only adds to Gibney drive to keep it a centerpiece of his marketing campaign.

The photographer who snapped the shot at Bagram in Afghanistan had all his pictures erased by American military officers after it was decided that he had captured some moments best kept away from the public eye. The photographer had a tech wizard work on his hard drive, who managed to successfully recover some of the shots.

After its near-loss to the military's information operations concerns, Gibney doesn't want to MPAA to succeed in its own agenda to block the photos from public consumption. "The point is that this is the real image," he says, "and that is a principle worth fighting for."

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