Zero Dark Thirty Filmmakers Asked to Pressure Senate on Interrogation Report

File under: "ain't gonna happen"

By: Shane Harris

A non-partisan group of former military officers wants the filmmakers behind Zero Dark Thirty to use any media appearances or acceptance speeches at the Oscars this weekend to call on the Senate Intelligence Committee to release a classified, 6,000-page report on the CIA's so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which feature prominently in the film. 

The group has written to Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison and others associated with the movie urging them to use their turn in the spotlight and "make the case for transparency on this issue..." 

Right. Because antagonizing the Senate intel committee is exactly what the ZDT crew wants to do right now. Said committee is investigating whether the CIA gave the filmmakers "inappropriate" access to classified information. And the senators will also look at whether CIA officials made the case that torturing terrorist suspects provided useful intelligence--a case that some observers (this one included) think that the film makes, even though its creators have argued, awkwardly, that it doesn't. 

Boal, the screenwriter, and Bigelow, the director, got extraordinary access to CIA and other administration officials during the making of their Oscar-nominated film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, far more than has been afforded to journalists. The Hollywood backlash has been palpable, and perhaps most evidenced by the fact that Bigelow, a previous Oscar winner for her Iraq War film Hurtlocker, was passed over this time for a Best Director nomination. 

When I saw the DC screening of Zero Dark Thirty earlier this year, I thought Bigelow and Boal were notably cautious in their remarks about the controversy their film has also generated in Washington. Bigelow, who knew she was under intense official scrutiny, seemed genuinely nervous to be in a room full of politicos, feds, and journalists.  And Boal looked as if he was biting his tongue, wanting to rebut his critics but careful not to stir the hornets' nest. 

I doubt the writer or the director intend to make themselves public martyrs for government transparency. The harder they push on the Senate Intelligence Committee to say what it knows about torture, the more they open themselves up to questions about what special access the CIA gave the filmmakers. And that is not a conversation they want to have.