Alex Gibney is one of the best, most prolific documentary film directors working today.
Gibney’s work often explores deception and the abuse of power. Always griping, uncompromising and thought provoking, here are seven of my favourite Alex Gibney films:
Taxi To The Dark Side
In 2002, US soldiers occupied war-torn Afghanistan. Tensions were high and violence was commonplace. At a checkpoint, a young Afghan taxi driver called Dilawar was arrested along with his passengers.
Dilawar was taken to Bagram Air Base. Five days after his arrest, Dilawar died.
Oscar-winning documentary, Taxi To The Dark Side, explores the devastating reality of life at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Unquestionably tough watch - revealing the ugly face of war - Taxi To The Dark Side makes us question… are we really the good guys?
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
In 1972 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - in the first known case in the US - victims publicly accuse a priest of child sexual abuse. This case would spur a worldwide investigation reaching all the way to the Vatican.
Gibney tells the story of the horrific abuse of over 200 children who attended Milwaukee's St John’s School For The Deaf in the 1950s. The abuse was carried out by their most trusted guardian - Father Lawrence Murphy.
The experiences of a small group of deaf men lie at the heart of Mea Maxima Culpa. Their names are Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Arthur Budzinski and Bob Bolger and their stories are told via the voices of actors Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke, Jamey Sheridan and John Slattery.
Kohut, Smith, Budzinski and Bolger fought for years to get the attention of the world. They were let down by society time and time again. But they did not give up. They could not - not until the world knew about the systemic child abuse within the Catholic Church.
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room tells the story behind one of the biggest corporate scandals in recent years. Based on the book of the same name by Bethany McLean, the documentary features key insider accounts, shocking audio recordings and incredible video footage.
Gibney's film exposes those responsible for the collapse of Enron - many of whom walked away with millions after destroying the company and ruining hundreds of lives.
Citizen K follows the remarkable life of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once believed to be the wealthiest man in Russia, who rocketed to prosperity and prominence in the 1990s, served a decade in prison, and became an unlikely martyr for the anti-Putin movement.
The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley
Gibney explores the psychology of deception and self deception in his documentary about Elizabeth Holmes, who created a healthcare company called Theranos when she was just 19 years old. In 2015, Theranos was worth an estimated $9 billion. Just one year later, Theranos was worth nothing and Holmes was facing accusations of serious fraud.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison Of Belief
Going Clear is a documentary (based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright) that seeks not to ridicule Scientology but, instead, to understand why people (often quite literally) buy into this ‘religion’.
Gibney examines the life of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, focuses on how Scientology has grown in popularity and looks at the methods by which the organisation attracts and retains its members.
At its heart, Going Clear is a story about the experiences of former Scientology members - many of whom held senior positions in the church. They tell a tale of systemic abuse and shocking betrayals by church officials.
No Stone Unturned
No Stone Unturned examines the 1994 Loughinisland massacre. The families of the six victims -who were murdered while watching the World Cup in their local pub - were promised justice, but 20 years later they still didn’t know who killed their loved ones.
Gibney uncovers a web of secrecy, lies and corruption.
Over To You...
Have you watched any of these Alex Gibney documentaries? If so, what films have you most enjoyed? What docs would you add to this list?
Let me know in the comments section below or over on Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm.