comments_image Comments

Actor David Clennon Responds to Bigelow's Recent Defense of ZD30


"Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow was given space by the Los Angeles Times to present a statement defending her film against accusations that it promotes the tolerance of torture (L.A.Times, 1/15).  The following is what Bigelow delivered, with some opposing commentary.  She begins with two paragraphs describing the difficulties she and screenwriter Mark Boal had to overcome, to bring "ZD30" to the screen.

Bigelow: Then came the controversy.  Now that "Zero Dark Thirty" has appeared in cinemas nationwide, many people have asked me if I was surprised by the brouhaha that surrounded the film, while it was still in limited release, when many thoughtful people were characterizing it in wildly contradictory ways.

The label "brouhaha" doesn't fit the gravity of the accusation of mendacity in this film, or the gravity of the allegation that "Zero" serves to encourage the tolerance of torture.  "Brouhaha" suggests something noisy and trivial.  "Brouhaha," like "squabble," or "tempest in a teapot," tells the reader that  the controversy isn't worthy of attention. 

When Bigelow says "people were characterizing [the movie] in wildly contradictory ways," does she mean that most movie reviewers were loudly applauding the film, while human rights activists were disturbed by the picture's permissive attitude toward torture?

Bigelow: The Times asked me to elaborate on recent statements I've made in response to these issues. I'm not sure I have anything new to add, but I can try to be concise and clear.

First of all: I support every American's 1st Amendment right to create works of art and speak their conscience without government interference or harassment.  

And human rights advocates "support every American's 1st Amendment rights," as well,  even as  they find fault with  ZD30's relaxed attitude toward torture.  No one in the anti-torture struggle is calling for "government interference or harassment." 

One strategy for defending oneself against accusations of wrongdoing is to  mis-characterize those accusations and then to proclaim one's innocence of charges  no one is actually making .  Bigelow has mis-characterized the allegations of sincere and serious human rights activists, more than once.

No one I know of, including Senator John McCain, wants to deprive Ms Bigelow of her 1st Amendment rights.  The real issue is the  human rights of the people at the mercy of Bigelow's CIA interrogators, including Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her mentor, Dan.  

Bigelow: As a lifelong pacifist, I support all protests against the use of torture, and, quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind.   

She may support protests, but she  undermines them by showing her CIA heroes using torture, getting results, and never, ever, being held to account for their gross violations of human rights and common decency.  In "The Greatest Manhunt in History ( ZD30)," anything goes; the end justifies the means, where the means include cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.       

Bigelow: But 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.  

Unfortunately, Ms Bigelow's film lets "those who instituted and ordered" torture escape censure, without even a passing mention.  Writing in the New York Times, Frank Bruni began his commentary, "I'm betting that Dick Cheney will love the new movie  Zero Dark Thirty .”

Bigelow: 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.   

See more stories tagged with: