Controversial director defends Oscar-nominated 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Before anyone had even seen “Zero Dark Thirty,” the film was generating controversy over how it depicts the role of torture in the manhunt to find Osama bin Laden. U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle spoke out against the movie. But the film – which was just nominated for five Academy Awards – has plenty of defenders, including one filmmaker who is no stranger to controversy himself.

Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning director of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine,” took to Twitter early Wednesday to come to the defense of the film and its director Kathryn Bigelow. He also explicitly credited President Obama’s role in the bin Laden operation, something the movie itself doesn’t do.

He went on to challenge the notion that since “Zero Dark Thirty” is based on a true story, everything in it should be interpreted as factual truth.


Moore was quoting director Kathryn Bigelow, who said, "I thankfully want to say that I'm standing in a room of people who understand that depiction is not endorsement” when she accepted the Best Director award at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this past Monday.  Bigelow was surprisingly not nominated for an Oscar, even though “Zero Dark Thirty” is one of the nine contenders for Best Picture.

[Photos: Oscar nomination snubs and surprises]

Michael Moore isn’t the only notable figure speaking out in support of the film. Last week, Mark Bowden, author of “Black Hawk Down,” wrote an article for The Atlantic with the direct headline “’Zero Dark Thirty’ Is Not Pro-Torture.”  Bowden, who documented the hunt for bin Laden in his book “The Finish,” agrees with Moore that the film shows the CIA got more valuable information from detainees when they weren’t being tortured.  Bowden writes, “[It] is cleverness, coasted with kindness, that produces something useful.”  Bowden also calls the film “remarkably accurate,” though he does describe at length the “fudged details” that are a part of any movie version of a true event.

Bigelow herself has gone on record that the scenes of enhanced interrogation in the film are there to tell the story, not to score political points.  She told The Wrap, “The point was to immerse the audience in this landscape, not to pretend to debate policy.”  She called the scenes “difficult to shoot,” and she stated her own personal aversion to the policy. She said, “Do I wish [torture] was not part of that history? Yes, but it was.”

Zero Dark Thirty” expands to theaters nationwide on Friday.

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