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Listening Post

The 'Zero Dark Thirty' controversy

A look at Hollywood's story of Osama bin Laden's death, the debate over torture and dangerous misconceptions.
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2013 15:20

Our Listening Post feature visits the crossroads where Hollywood meets Langley, Virginia – via Guantanamo Bay and the caves of Tora Bora.

Coming from the director who won six Academy Awards for baring the American soul over Iraq with Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow now takes on torture with the film Zero Dark Thirty. But did waterboarding really bring us the head of Osama bin Laden?

That is a question the movie answers in the affirmative, while even those who support waterboarding and other forms of physical abuse for intelligence purposes say that was not the case at all. Some might say that we do not go to the movies for historical accuracy.

But, like it or not, the movies mould opinions and the silver-screen treatment of a subject as troublesome to the conscience as torture has the power to shape our sense of right and wrong on the matter.

Nic Muirhead's feature includes contributions from Peter Rainer, a film critic for Christian Science Monitor; Alissa Quart, the editor-at-large of The Atavist; Joshua Rothkopf, the senior film writer with Time Out in New York; and former CIA analyst, Glenn Carle.

"I can only imagine the outcry would have been much louder if we had a movie about this manhunt and it had no scenes of water boarding in it. You would hear just as loud an outcry from people saying this is a white wash story, this isn't the whole story the CIA op, operated illegally, there were tactics that are used that are suddenly not in the film they had to include that material because it's an unfortunate part of the agency's history but it happened."

Joshua Rothkopf, senior film writer, Time Out New York

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