Zero Dark Thirty has been making news this past week in more ways than one. For one thing, the movie, which chronicles the hunt and death of terrorist Osama bin Laden, was nominated for an Oscar for best picture.
But it’s also been making headlines because some opponents say the movie’s inclusion of torture and waterboarding means it endorses and justifies those methods. Academy member David Clennon has made accusations that the movie “makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture.”
This prompted Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal to defend the movie.
“Zero Dark Thirty does not advocate torture,” she said Friday. “To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate. We fully support Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal and stand behind this extraordinary movie. We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda.”
On Jan. 9, Academy member Clennon posted an opinion piece on the web site truth-out.org, noting, “I’m a member of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy. At the risk of being expelled for disclosing my intentions, I will not be voting for Zero Dark Thirty – in any Academy Awards category.”
On Friday, Clennon took part in a demonstration in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles to protest conditions in Guantanamo, organized by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace and other human rights organizations.
In a statement to media outlets soliciting their coverage of the event, Clennon said, “I firmly believe that the film Zero Dark Thirty promotes the acceptance of the crime of torture, as a legitimate weapon in America’s so-called War on Terror. In that belief, following my conscience, I will not vote for Zero Dark Thirty in any category… I cannot vote for a film that makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture.”
In response to his remarks, Pascal also said, “This film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an artist’s right of expression is abhorrent. This community, more than any other, should know how reprehensible that is. While we fully respect everyone’s right to express their opinion, this activity is really an affront to the Academy and artistic creative freedom. This attempt to censure one of the great films of our time should be opposed.
“As Kathryn Bigelow so appropriately said earlier this week , ‘depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices; no author could ever write about them; and no filmmaker could ever delve into the knotty subjects of our time.’ We believe members of the Academy will judge the film on its true merits and will tune out the wrongful and misdirected rhetoric.”
Zero Dark Thirty has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture. Many have regarded Bigelow’s exclusion in the best director category as a major snub.
While the Academy has not commented on Clennon’s statement, it does not appear to be in violation of any Academy rules. The Academy’s campaign regulations do state that “anyone directly associated with an eligible film” may not attempt “to promote a particular film or achievement by casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement.”
Since Clennon isn’t promoting one of Zero‘s competitors, it appears that rule doesn’t apply here. The Academy does urge members not to disclose how they plan to vote to others, but it’s not an official rule.
I agree with Bigelow and Pascal. It’s a movie, people. It’s what happened (though some say it’s not all that accurate, and some people are picketing the movie for the graphic torture scenes). To not depict what actually happened would make the movie complete fiction.
What say you, dear readers? Should Kathryn Bigelow not have included the torture and waterboarding scenes? Do you feel it makes American heroes out of those inflicting the torture in the movie?