Philip Alexander "Alex" Gibney (born October 23, 1953) is an American documentary film director and producer. In 2010, Esquire magazine said Gibney "is becoming the most important documentarian of our time".
His works as director include Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (winner of three Emmys in 2015), We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (the winner of three primetime Emmy awards), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (nominated in 2005 for Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature); Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (short-listed in 2011 for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature); Casino Jack and the United States of Money; and Taxi to the Dark Side (winner of the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature), focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed at Bagram Air Force Base in 2002.
Life and career
Gibney was born in New York City, New York, the son of Harriet (Harvey) and journalist Frank Gibney. His stepfather was the Rev. William Sloane Coffin. After attending Pomfret School, Gibney earned his bachelor's degree from Yale University and later attended the UCLA Film School.
Gibney developed an anti-authority view from the journalism career of his father: "They say to succeed you're supposed to suck up and kick down. Well, he was the classic guy who sucked down and kicked up, which is never a good career path! He was at Time, then fired. At Newsweek, fired. At Life, fired." His stepfather was equally an influence on him. "There was something about my father, my mother, and then my stepfather, I think they all ruddered against authority in their own peculiar ways. And that probably rubbed off on me, too."
He served as executive producer of the documentary No End in Sight (2007). His film Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008) is a documentary based on Hunter Thompson's life and his "Gonzo" style of journalism. Under executive producer Martin Scorsese, Gibney was series producer for the PBS television series The Blues (2003) (producing individual episodes directed by Wim Wenders and Charles Burnett) and writer-producer of The Pacific Century (1992) (which won the News & Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Historical Program). Several films he directed and/or produced have been screened at the Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals.
In an interview with Robert K. Elder for The Film That Changed My Life, Gibney credits much influence on his filming style to The Exterminating Angel:
[The Exterminating Angel is] dark, but it's also wickedly funny and mysterious in ways that can’t be reduced to a simple, analytical explanation. I always thought that's what's great about movies sometimes—the best movies have to be experienced; they can’t just be written about.
In an interview with David Poland for MIFF, Gibney gives statement to disagree with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivist Movement:
"Objectivity is dead. There's no such thing as objectivity. When you're making a film, a film can't be objective.
Gibney's Taxi to the Dark Side premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival where it won Best Documentary. The film probes the homicide of an innocent taxi driver named Dilawar at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
Gibney is president of Jigsaw Productions, which produces independent films, music documentaries, and TV mini-series. He has been honored by the Yale Film Studies program for his contributions to film culture. In 2010, Utne Reader listed Gibney as one of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."
His 2013 film We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, is a comprehensive look at WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning. The Wikileaks organization itself has objected to the way Gibney portrayed it, and has posted a line-by-line rebuttal to the entire film.
Gibney's most recent projects include work on The Armstrong Lie (about Lance Armstrong), Catching Hell (a contribution to ESPN's '30 for 30' series which looks at "The Inning" in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series) and Going Clear, a documentary about Scientology.
Gibney writes for the The Atlantic, and has written for Huffington Post and other publications.
On June 19, 2008, Gibney's company filed for arbitration, arguing that THINKFilm failed to properly distribute and promote his film Taxi to the Dark Side. He is suing for over a million dollars in damages. He stated that the film has grossed only $280,000.
Filmography (as director)
- The Ruling Classroom (1980)
- Manufacturing Miracles (1988)
- The Fifties (1997), television mini-series
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: Love Crazy (1998)
- The Sexual Century: Sexual Explorers (1999)
- The Sexual Century: The Sexual Revolution (1999)
- Jimi Hendrix and the Blues (2001)
- Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
- 3 Doors Down: Away from the Sun, Live from Houston, Texas (2005)
- Behind Those Eyes (2005)
- Time Piece (segment "Empire of the Pushcarts") (2006)
- The Human Behavior Experiments (2006)
- Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)
- Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)
- Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010)
- My Trip to Al Qaeda (2010)
- Freakonomics (segment Pure Corruption) (2010)
- Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010)
- Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place (2011)
- Catching Hell (2011)
- The Last Gladiators (2011)
- Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012)
- Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream (2012)
- We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)
- The Armstrong Lie (2013)
- Finding Fela (2014)
- Ceasefire Massacre (2014) ESPN 30 for 30: Soccer Stories
- Fields of Fear (2014) ESPN 30 for 30 Short
- Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown (2014)
- Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)
- Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015)
- Sinatra: All or Nothing At All (2015)
- Zero Days (2016)
- The Agent (2016)
- Cooked (2016)
- "Festival Unveils Highly Anticipated World Premieres Of Documentaries From Werner Herzog, Morgan Spurlock, Jessica Yu, Nick Broomfield And More". Toronto International Film Festival 2011.