The Senate Intelligence Committee Has Finally Dropped Its Investigation Into Zero Dark 30

zero dark 30

Photo: Sony / Columbia Pictures

Just a day after Zero Dark 30 foundered at the Oscars, taking just a single technical prize, the high-profile US senate investigation that may have helped scupper the drama’s awards season has been quietly dropped.With Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal having previously won best film in 2010 for The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark 30 – about the hunt for Osama bin Laden – was one of the early frontrunners for this year’s Oscars and took many of the critics’ prizes that preface the bigger awards ceremonies. But then disquiet grew over the film’s depiction of the CIA’s alleged use of torture in the hunt for the leader of al-Qaida.

In January the US Senate intelligence committee launched an investigation into whether Bigelow and Boal were granted “inappropriate access” to classified CIA material after the committee’s Democratic chair Dianne Feinstein and member John McCain, the former Republican US presidential candidate, expressed concern about Zero Dark 30’s torture scenes. In an article on the Guardian website Naomi Wolf later compared Bigelow with the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl.

The film soon became a political football, with the film-makers furiously defending their right to include fictional elements. “It’s a movie. I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s a movie,” Boal said last month. “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.” Speaking at the New York Film Critics Circle awards, where she won best director, Bigelow said: “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 film-maker could ever delve into the knotty subjects of our time.”

Zero Dark 30 received unexpected support from leftwing film-maker Michael Moore, who defended the drama as “a disturbing, fantastically-made movie” that “will make you hate torture”. But the damage was done in the eyes of Oscars voters, especially after Academy member David Clennon called for a boycott.

When the Oscar nominees were announced on 10 January, Bigelow surprisingly missed out on a nod for best director and her film was left to compete only for best picture, best original screenwriting (Boal), best actress (Chastain) and two editing prizes. On Sunday night, Chastain lost out to Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jennifer Lawrence and Boal was defeated by Django Unchained‘s Quentin Tarantino. Zero Dark 30 ultimately had to be content with a single gong for best sound editing, in a tie with James Bond movie Skyfall.

A congressional aide, speaking anonymously, yesterday told Reuters the Senate intelligence committee had closed its inquiry. Studio Sony, which produced the film, had no immediate comment and neither Bigelow nor Boal has yet made a public statement.

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