The US film-maker Michael Moore has defended Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty as “a disturbing, fantastically-made movie” that “will make you hate torture”.
In an extended post on Facebook, Moore said he did not buy critics’ argument that the film glorifies torture by showing its use during the search for Osama bin Laden. He also dismissed suggestions that the film erroneously depicted torture as a vital tool in the hunt for al-Qaida’s figurehead. Figures ranging from US senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein to Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and terrorism expert Steve Coll have criticised Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal for their approach on Zero Dark Thirty, and the film is the subject of an investigation by the US Senate intelligence committee.
“I guess where I part with most of my friends who are upset at this film is that they are allowing the wrong debate to take place,” wrote Moore. “You should NEVER engage in a debate where the other side defines the terms of the debate – namely, in this case, to debate ‘whether torture works’. You should refuse to participate in that discussion because the real question should be, simply, “is torture wrong?” And, after watching the brutal behaviour of CIA agents for the first 45 minutes of the film, I can’t believe anyone of conscience would conclude anything other than that this is morally NOT right. You will be repulsed by these torture scenes because, make no mistake about it, this has been done in your name and mine and with our tax dollars. We funded this.”
Moore continued: “Zero Dark Thirty is a disturbing, fantastically-made movie. It will make you hate torture. And it will make you happy you voted for a man who stopped all that barbarity – and who asked that the people over at Langley, like him, use their brains.”
Appearing on the US TV show This Week on the ABC network at the weekend, Boal hit out at the Senate probe, comparing the response to Zero Dark Thirty to government scrutiny of Hollywood creatives during the McCarthy era. “I think that it could discourage other screenwriters or writers of any kind from making topical movies – it could discourage studios from releasing them,” Boal said. “Criticism is fine, and we, I can take criticism on board. But there is a difference between criticism and investigation. And I think that crosses a line that hasn’t been crossed really since the 1940s, when you talk about government investigating movies.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Zero Dark Thirty will not be hitting cinemas in Pakistan, where Bin Laden was killed by a US Navy Seal squad at his compound in the north of the country in May last year. “The movie had some controversial scenes in the story related to Pakistan … For us it’s not possible to bring it here,” distributor Mohsin Yaseen of local firm Cinepax told the BBC. “It did affect our business, but, you know, it’s better to be safe than showing that film.”
Nevertheless, Zero Dark Thirty is said to be extremely popular via pirated DVDs, despite what many Pakistanis see as strange inaccuracies, such as the depiction of modern Islamabad as a dusty war zone.
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