The head of National Geographic Channels and the creators of a new movie about the raid on Osama bin Laden are defending the production and the decision to premiere it two days before the U.S. presidential election.
SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden is a 90-minute TV film depicting the Navy Seal mission that resulted in the death of terrorist leader bin Laden. It is set to air in prime time on National Geographic Channel on Nov. 4. A release on Netflix comes the following day.
National Geographic Channels CEO David Lyle scoffed at the notion the TV movie's debut might sway results of the election, which takes place Nov. 6.
"I think the end titles run longer than Obama's time on screen," Lyle said.
"People that haven't seen the movie have decided that it's a political event. Believe me, in 85 million homes, a movie from National Geographic is not going to change the outcome of the election in a country of 300 million."
Accused of political motivation
The project has sparked outrage from Conservative circles, who have accused the filmmakers of being politically motivated in releasing what they feel will be a favourable portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama so late in the presidential race.
The controversy flared up this week after the New York Times reported that a copy of the film provided to the outlet had been re-edited from the earlier version and that the recut strengthened Obama's role and decision-making regarding the raid.
"We don't want to pass judgment on the content, because we haven't watched the film, but timing is what matters," said Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center.
"If it doesn't have a political agenda, as they say it doesn't, and if there aren't any political purposes behind this, as they say there aren't, then simply put [the broadcast]
off by two days," Bozell said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.
Critics have also pointed out that the project counts Harvey Weinstein as a producer. The influential movie mogul and outspoken Obama supporter bought the rights to SEAL Team Six — the first original film to be produced by the National Geographic Channel — at the Cannes film festival in May.
Attention on films about raid
Mixing interviews with archival footage and dramatized flashbacks, SEAL Team Six revisits how intelligence officials and the now-famed squad of Navy Seals raided a fortified compound in Pakistan and killed bin Laden on May 2, 2011. The cast includes Cam Gigandet, Anson Mount, Freddy Rodriquez, Xzibit, Kathleen Robertson, Eddie Kay Thomas and William Fichtner.
"It's impossible to make a film about the killing of Osama bin Laden without the president being a part of that film," actress Robertson said, adding that she believes the criticism to be unfair.
Directed by John Stockwell, SEAL Team Six debuts just weeks before Zero Dark Thirty, Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow's high-profile feature film about the raid.
Bigelow reteams with her The Hurt Locker writing-producing colleague Mark Boal for the new production, which has also faced criticism. Though originally set to hit theatres this fall, Zero Dark Thirty's opening was ultimately delayed until Dec. 19.