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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Senators Spark New Furor Over 'Zero Dark Thirty'

UPDATE #2  Typically terrific Amy Davidson piece at The New Yorker on the senators' protest.  She is right to be concerned about requests for changes in Hollywood movies but also points out to the essential wrongness of the movie and hypocrisy of filmmakers in wanting in both way--based on true events but fictional in key points.    

Earlier today, David Sirota at Salon focused on a troubling issue (mentioned in the senators' letter) of CIA and Pentagon now in trouble for assisting Bigelow in making the film.  The question: Did they slant their fiction to curry favor?  Did the CIA and military demand that?  Remember, they withdraw support eventually from her previous film, The Hurt Locker.

UPDATE #1 Three U.S. Senators have just "lambasted" Bigelow for the inaccuracies and one of her film.  McCain, Levin and Feinstein (all involved on the torture issue) say say the movie is “factually inaccurate” and “has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner.” Their letter, the NYT notes,  asks Sony Pictures to “consider correcting the impression that the C.I.A.’s use of coercive interrogation techniques led to the operation” against Bin Laden.

Earlier:   Major takedown of Bigelow and her film, from the estimable Jane Mayer, a true expert on all this, at The New Yorker.  Not your average reviewer or pundit or blogger.  She "milks the U.S. torture program for drama while sidestepping the political and ethical debate that it provoked. In her hands, the hunt for bin Laden is essentially a police procedural, devoid of moral context. If she were making a film about slavery in antebellum America, it seems, the story would focus on whether the cotton crops were successful."
I’ve seen the film and, as much as I admired Bigelow’s Oscar-winning picture “The Hurt Locker,” I think that this time, by ignoring the full weight of the dark history of torture, her work falls disturbingly short. To begin with, despite Boal’s contentions, “Zero Dark Thirty” does not capture the complexity of the debate about America’s brutal detention program. It doesn’t include a single scene in which torture is questioned, even though the Bush years were racked by internal strife over just that issue—again, not just among human-rights and civil-liberties lawyers, but inside the F.B.I., the military, the Justice Department, and the C.I.A. itself, which eventually abandoned waterboarding because it feared, correctly, that the act constituted a war crime. None of this ethical drama seems to interest Bigelow.
Much of this echoes, but also goes beyond, my piece on the film.

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