Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have responded to accusations that their film Zero Dark Thirty, which traces the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, endorsed torture by including scenes of waterboarding and other abuses.
The pair addressed the issue as Zero Dark Thirty triumphed at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards held last night at the Crimson Club in Manhattan.
Winning NYFCC’s top trio of awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography, following its limited release on December 19 the film has received not only accolades but criticism from politicians and media voices, notably Naomi Wolf who compared Bigelow with Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, The Guardian reports.
Last week, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, and former Republican US presidential candidate John McCain, suggested Bigelow and Boal endorsed the use of torture by depicting “enhanced interrogations” of CIA detainees as playing a role in producing a breakthrough during the hunt for bin Laden.
The committee has now launched a probe to investigate whether Bigelow and Boal were granted “inappropriate access” to classified CIA material and whether or not CIA contacts intentionally misled them, said Reuters.
Last night, Bigelow and Boal said they stood by their work and offered a defiant response to their critics.
“I thankfully want to say that I’m standing in a room of people who understand that depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices; no author could ever write about them; and no film-maker could ever delve into the knotty subjects of our time,” said Bigelow as she accepted the Best Director award.
Accepting the Best Film award, Boal referred to the cases of two CIA agents who have either been jailed or are currently facing prison following torture charges, observing:
“There’s been a lot written about this movie … Let me just say this: there was a very interesting story on the front page of the New York Times today by Scott Shane, about a CIA agent who is now facing jail time for talking to a reporter about waterboarding.”
“In case anyone is asking, we stand by the film. I think, at the end of the day, we made a film that allows us to look back at the past in a way that gives us a more clear-sighted appraisal of the future.”
Starring Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton, Zero Dark Thirty topped up its bulging awards count with more wins at the Vancouver Film Critics Circle awards last night and Alliance Of Women Film Journalists awards. Also nominated for four Golden Globes and widely considered to be a front-runner at this year’s Academy Awards, last word should perhaps go to Mark Boal who stated the obvious in an after-awards interview with The Hollywood Reporter:
“I think [the senate committee] have a job to do, and it’s very different from my job. It’s a movie. I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s a movie. That shouldn’t be too confusing. It’s in cinemas, and if it’s not totally obvious, a CIA agent wasn’t really an Australian [Jason Clarke] that was on a lot of TV shows, and Jessica Chastain isn’t really a CIA agent; she’s a very talented actress. But I think most American audiences understand that.”
Zero Dark Thirty is set for wide release on January 11 in the UK and January 25 in the US.