Kathryn Bigelow Speaks Out As “Zero Dark Thirty” War Heats Up

“Depiction is not endorsement.”

Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Jonathan Olley / AP

Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow is fighting back with a Los Angeles Times op-ed against critics who have accused her film of glorifying torture.

It’s thought that the criticism has led to the jittery Academy of Motion Pictures denying a Best Directing nomination to Bigelow — a move that effectively ended the film’s Oscar hopes.

But Bigelow says: Don’t shoot the messenger.

She writes (emphasis ours):

Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.

This is an important principle to stand up for, and it bears repeating. For confusing depiction with endorsement is the first step toward chilling any American artist’s ability and right to shine a light on dark deeds, especially when those deeds are cloaked in layers of secrecy and government obfuscation…

On a practical and political level, it does seem illogical to me to make a case against torture by ignoring or denying the role it played in U.S. counter-terrorism policy and practices.

Bigelow with screenwriter Mark Boal, on the set of Zero Dark Thirty. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Jonathan Olley / AP

Bigelow’s op-ed is just the latest salvo by those associated with the film to defend it against these allegations. Last Thursday, after the Oscar nominations were announced, ZDT producer Megan Ellison tweeted her dismay that the director was not nominated for an Oscar: “Kathryn Bigelow was robbed. So fucked up. #recount.” And last Friday, Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal released a statement saying, “Zero Dark Thirty does not advocate torture. To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate.”

Still, the critics have not let up. As BuzzFeed reported last week, actor and Academy member David Clennon said publicly that he would not vote for the film, adding his opinion that the film depicts torture is a “legitimate weapon.” He was joined on Sunday by actors Martin Sheen and former president of the Screen Actors Guild Ed Asner. “I would like to condemn the movie,” Asner told The New York Times, for depicting torture as an effective at extracting information.

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