'Zero Dark Thirty' Filmmakers Address Torture Debate at NYFCC Awards

Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow

Accepting prestigious prizes from New York Film Critics Circle, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal take time to fire back at senators who investigate CIA contacts who gave information to the filmmakers.
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have fired back at some senators who investigate and urge CIA to provide evidence on the validity of the information given during the making of "Zero Dark Thirty (2012)". The director-screenwriter duo addressed the criticisms when accepting Best Director and Best Picture awards during the New York Film Critics Circle Awards on Monday night, January 7.

"I thankfully want to say that I'm standing in a room of people who understand that 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 naughty subjects of our time," so Bigelow said, as quoted by The Hollywood Reporter.

Weighing in on the recent "torture scene" debate sparked by senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain, writer Boal said, "There's been a lot written about this movie; some of it has popped off the entertainment page to the news page." He went, "And from time to time, some of you might have wondered if we would have liked to comment on some of that coverage, and the answer is yes."

Boal went on referencing the story of a former CIA agent, John Kiriaku, who was sentenced to 30 months in jail for publicly discussing torture during interrogation and spilling the name of a covert agent to a reporter. "Let me just say this," Boal said, "there was a very interesting story on the front page of the New York Times today by Scott Shane, about a CIA agent who is now facing jail time for talking to a reporter about waterboarding."

"This gentleman is going to jail for that. And all I can say is that I read that story very closely. It sort of reminds me of what somebody else said when they were running for president, which is, 'If this s*** was happening to somebody else, it would be very interesting. For us, it's quite serious."

He went on stressing, "But nevertheless, I stand here tonight being extremely proud of the film we made... In case anyone is asking, we stand by the film. I think at the end of the day, we made a film that allows us to look back at the past in a way that gives us a more clear-sighted appraisal of the future."

As for the investigation conducted by the senators, Boal refused to comment too much on it. "You'd have to ask them. I think they have a job to do, and it's very different from my job," he told THR. "It's a movie. I've been saying from the beginning it's a movie. That shouldn't be too confusing."

"It's in cinemas, and if it's not totally obvious, a CIA agent wasn't really an Australian [Jason Clarke] that was on a lot of TV shows, and Jessica Chastain isn't really a CIA agent; she's a very talented actress. But I think most American audiences understand that."

Just a few days ago, the three senators wrote another letter to the CIA, continuing their investigation toward CIA contacts who gave information to the filmmakers. The three asked CIA's acting director, Michael Morell, to show what information was acquired from CIA detainees and when. "Prior to, during, or after the detainee was subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques? If after, how long after?" so it's said in the letter.

Since December, senators began to slam the movie, urging Sony Pictures to add a disclaimer to the film. In an open letter written for the studio on Wednesday, December 19, those senators stated, "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."

"Zero Dark Thirty is factually inaccurate, and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Usama Bin Laden is not based on the facts, but rather part of the film's fictional narrative," so they claimed in the letter, which was addressed to Sony's Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton.

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