Zero Dark 30 Director Kathryn Bigelow Defends The Controversial Waterboarding Scene

Zero Dark 30

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The Oscar-winning team behind a film about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark 30, have denied suggestions that they condoned the use of torture by including a scene in which waterboarding is used to interrogate a suspect.Zero Dark 30, from director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, has been at the centre of controversy in the US ever since its existence was revealed in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing at his compound in northern Pakistan in May last year by a US Navy Seal squad.

The project first drew flak from Republicans after it emerged that Barack Obama’s administration shared information with the production team, amid pre-election fears that the movie might influence voters by portraying the president in a flattering light.

More recently there have been suggestions (via an article in the Washington Post) that the real life CIA agent on whom actor Jessica Chastain’s character is based is far from a heroic figure.

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The latest row to surround the film centres on claims by some critics that Zero Dark 30 glorifies torture by showing the use of waterboarding leading to Bin Laden’s killing, as well as claims that the controversial scene is not based on historical events. In a new interview with theWrap, Bigelow and Boal have denied both allegations.

“This movie has been and will continue to be put in political boxes,” said Boal. “Before we even wrote it, some people said it was an Obama campaign commercial, which was preposterous. And now it’s pro-torture, which is preposterous.

“We’re trying to present a long, 10-year intelligence hunt, of which the harsh interrogation programme is the most controversial aspect. And it’s just misreading the film to say that it shows torture leading to the information about Bin Laden.

“If you actually watch the movie, the detainee doesn’t say anything when he’s waterboarded. He gives them some information that’s new to them over the civilised setting of a lunch – and they go back to the research room and all that information is already there.”

Bigelow added: “Do I wish [torture] was not part of that history? Yes. But it was.”

Bigelow’s film finds itself so firmly at the centre of a media maelstrom that — at least according to the makers’ contention — journalists are making errors left, right and centre. Chastain told theWrap that her character, contrary to speculation in US newspapers, was exactly like the reputedly troublesome real-life CIA agent she is said to be based on.

“I think it’s great that information is coming out about her,” Chastain told theWrap after the film’s US premiere at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles on Monday night. “For so long I haven’t been able to say anything about her, and now I can finally talk about her a little.” She added: “I was talking to Kathryn this afternoon, and she said, ‘Everything in the story sounds just like our character.”

The new movie already appears to be one of the early frontrunners for the Academy Awards in February, having been awarded influential prizes from New York, LA and Boston-based critics’ organisations.


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