the tortured truth about zero dark thirty.

“Isn’t it equally true that lies and distortions presented under the guise of facts also become the dire enemies of truth?”

I wish I said that. The credit goes to blogger and former 60 Minutes producer Barry Lando. He wrote that in a recent Huffington Post column about the film Zero Dark Thirty.

Within context, Lando was discussing director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal’s artistic license with history in the name of producing a compelling, dramatic motion picture. Most pointedly, Lando and others criticized Zero Dark Thirty for portraying torture as useful and necessary in the hunt for Osama bin Laden as well as the overall effort to thwart al-Qaeda. This sticking point has been the topic of debate since the film’s release.

Zero-Dark-Thirty-Torture-1True, the depictions of torture enhanced interrogation techniques in Zero Dark Thirty are intense, difficult and uncomfortable. Those depictions should be uncomfortable. Even if you agree with the tactic (which I vehemently oppose), only a sadist would enjoy watching a person get tortured.

But I don’t believe Bigelow and Boal were saying torture was vital to the capture of Osama bin Laden. They didn’t invent this part of the story. Torture of suspected terrorists went on for several years under the CIA. Rather, I think they were saying the CIA believed in this method of gathering information, therefore continued it until President Obama ended the program.

To Lando’s point, Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t willingly distort that detail. I do not believe they editorialized in favor of torture. Nor do I feel it’s fair to hang Bigelow over the studio’s choice to market her movie with “Witness the Biggest Manhunt in History.”

Zero Dark Thirty is not a documentary. It isn’t pretending to be a documentary. It is a dramatization of real-life events. Films are emotional experiences. The point of a compelling story is to evoke emotion from the audience. Laughter, happiness, sadness, anger and so on. That’s what filmmakers want from an audience. Even a film with such weighty subject matter as Zero Dark Thirty are about the emotion of the events more than the finer details.

Nevertheless, I’m stamping that Lando quote on everything because it is an important reminder that bears repeating over and over.


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Filed under analysis, movies

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