The MPAA rejects posters on a semi-regular basis — it happened this year with the original one-sheets for Hostel Part II and Captivity — so Taxi‘s rejection, in and of itself, isn’t surprising. Not surprising, that is, until you look at the poster, which depicts two soldiers walking a hooded prisoner away from the camera. That’s it — no gore, no dismembered flesh, no bloody dental instruments. Just a guy in a hood.
It’s the hood, as you might have already guessed, that the MPAA has problems with; last year, the Association rejected the artwork for The Road to Guantanamo, which depicted a hooded prisoner hanging by his wrists. According to Variety, Roadside Attractions’ co-president, Howard Cohen, said the studio was told “the burlap bag over the prisoner’s head depicted torture, which was not appropriate for children to see.” This is reinforced by the MPAA’s statement regarding Taxi to the Dark Side, which follows:
“We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration.”
Gibney is predictably peeved:
“Not permitting us to use an image of a hooded man that comes from a documentary photograph is censorship, pure and simple. Intentional or not, the MPAA’s disapproval of the poster is a political act, undermining legitimate criticism of the Bush administration. I agree that the image is offensive; it’s also real.”
The image in the poster is real — sort of. It’s actually a combination of two photos; one, taken by Corbis’ Shaun Schwarz, depicted the prisoner with one soldier, while the second soldier was added in later. The Schwarz photo has its own interesting story, also involving censorship. From Variety:
Ironically, the original Schwarz photo was censored by the military, which erased his camera’s memory. The photographer eventually retrieved the image from his hard drive.
ThinkFilm has announced plans to appeal the MPAA’s ruling, although the studio’s distribution president, Mark Urman, says the company “doesn’t know what that entails.”