In her most explicit comments to date about the depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow has written a statement for the L.A. Times defending her film and her right to free speech.
Bigelow is under fire by a U.S. Senate committee that says the film is "grossly inaccurate and misleading" in showing torture as an effective way to gain information in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
The Oscar-nominated film includes a scene that shows an al-Qaeda operative being waterboarded and later giving up information that leads to bin Laden. Bigelow defended that depiction of torture.
'I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen'—Kathryn Bigelow
"Experts disagree sharply on the facts and particulars of the intelligence hunt, and doubtlessly that debate will continue," Bigelow wrote in her statement for the L.A.Times.
"As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn't mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn't ignore."
Bigelow said her goal was to make a "modern, rigorous film" about a top secret mission and at times she thought it would never be made. She and screenwriter Mark Boal had worked on Zero Dark Thirty for years and it had to be revamped after bin Laden was actually killed in May of 2011.
She said the backlash against her film from politicians and from Hollywood is misdirected.
"I support every American's 1st Amendment right to create works of art and speak their conscience without government interference or harassment. As a lifelong pacifist, I support all protests against the use of torture, and, quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind," she wrote.
"But I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen."
Bigelow said she finds it "illogical" to make a case against torture, as some U.S. senators appear to do, by denying that it happened. Hollywood has a proud tradition of searing war films, she wrote, and directors should not be forced to back down from showing the "harsh realities" of war.
Though lauded by many critics, Zero Dark Thirty has lost its momentum in the awards season race. At the Golden Globes, it won just one award — best actress for Jessica Chastain — and Bigelow was overlooked in Oscar nominations for best director.
A group of Hollywood insiders has begun an "anti-Oscar" campaign critical of the film because of the torture scene. Meanwhile the U.S. Senate is in the midst of a probe over what the CIA told filmmakers as they made the film.
Bigelow ended her statement by remembering the victims of 9/11 and praising the ordinary Americans who worked to find bin Laden.
"Bin Laden wasn't defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation," she wrote.