'Zero Dark Thirty' director responds to criticism of torture scenes

'Zero Dark Thirty' director Kathryn Bigelow writes that torture was part of the real hunt for Osama bin Laden. Bigelow also writes that "depiction [of torture] is not endorsement."

By , Associated Press

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    This film image released by Columbia Pictures shows a scene from "Zero Dark Thirty," directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The film has been criticized for its scenes of torture.
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Director Kathryn Bigelow defends torture scenes in her Oscar-nominated film "Zero Dark Thirty," saying torture was an undeniable part of the hunt for Osama bin Laden after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The film opens by declaring it's based on firsthand accounts of actual events.

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other lawmakers criticized the film as misleading for suggesting torture led to the location of bin Laden. Lawmakers asked Sony Pictures to attach a disclaimer that the film is fictional.

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"Experts disagree sharply on the facts and particulars of the intelligence hunt, and doubtlessly that debate will continue," Bigelow wrote in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

The comments were Bigelow's most explicit reaction to the controversy so far.

"As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work," she continued. "Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn't mean it was the key to finding bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn't ignore."

"War, obviously, isn't pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences," she added.

Bigelow wrote that torture was part of the story and the backlash may be misdirected.

"Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.

"This is an important principle to stand up for, and it bears repeating. For confusing depiction with endorsement is the first step toward chilling any American artist's ability and right to shine a light on dark deeds, especially when those deeds are cloaked in layers of secrecy and government obfuscation.

"I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen," she wrote.

Last week, Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal responded forcefully to a "Zero Dark Thirty" anti-Oscar campaign waged by Ed Asner and other Hollywood actors, saying "to punish an artist's right of expression is abhorrent."

Bigelow and "Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter Mark Boal had said previously that they "depicted a variety of controversial practices and intelligence methods that were used in the name of finding bin Laden.

"The film shows that no single method was necessarily responsible for solving the manhunt, nor can any single scene taken in isolation fairly capture the totality of efforts the film dramatizes," they said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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