Another day, another round of controversy for "Zero Dark Thirty." The film -- which, if you can believe it, is still not out nationwide -- premiered at the Newseum in Washington DC on Tuesday night, where members of Amnesty International and 9/11 "Truthers" were on hand to protest the event.
According to THR, the protesters -- some of whom were dressed like prisoners -- held signs calling "Zero Dark Thirty" Pentagon-produced propaganda and worse. "Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading" read one of the signs, a reference to the film's sequences of torture. In "Zero Dark Thirty," a prisoner is waterboarded for information about future terror attacks; later, the same prisoner gives up the code name of Osama bin Laden's courier, a key piece of information that comes into play years later during the bin Laden manhunt. (Whether the protesters have actually seen "Zero Dark Thirty" is unclear.)
"Zero Dark Thirty" has become a lightning rod of political discourse. Lawmakers, including Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have slammed the movie for its supposed endorsement of enhanced interrogation tactics.
"We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of [Osama] bin Laden," wrote Sens. Feinstein, McCain and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in a letter to "Zero Dark Thirty" studio Sony in December.
"[T]he truth is that multiple streams of intelligence led CIA analysts to conclude that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad," countered CIA director Michael Morell in a statement. "Some came from detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, but there were many other sources as well.”
At the Washington DC premiere, director Kathryn Bigelow didn't comment on the protesters, but did discuss the debate "Zero Dark Thirty" has created.
To be clear, we had no agenda in making this film and were not trying to generate controversy. Quite the contrary. Mark and I wanted to present the story as we understood it, based on the extraordinary research that Mark did. All of us were affected by September 11th, 2001, and the events that followed. Among other things, it catalyzed the greatest manhunt in history. Many of us know how it ended. Perhaps nobody knows every detail of how it happened. We tried to bring this story to the screen in a faithful way. As a director, I make a film, and then it is up to the audience to interpret. Each person will have their own experience with the film. This was a momentous part of our nation’s history, and we wanted to illustrate the ambiguities, the contradictions, and complexities of this 10-year search. There is a tremendous debate going on about various aspects of the hunt, some of which are depicted in this film. One thing is clear: at the end of the day, it took a selfless team of individuals, many of whom we will never know or meet, to carry out this mission. As filmmakers, we hope that this film honors their work and sacrifice.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is out nationwide on Jan. 11. The film is expected to earn Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress (Jessica Chastain), among many others.
For more on the Washington DC premiere, head over to THR.