Kathryn Bigelow denounces torture in new 'Zero Dark Thirty' essay

Kathryn Bigelow arrives at the Hollywood premiere of "Zero Dark Thirty" on December 10, 2012.

Story highlights

  • "Zero Dark Thirty" filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow writes about the scenes of torture in the movie
  • Bigelow insists that "depiction is not endorsement"
  • The controversy has dogged the movie for weeks as politicians and pundits attacked the movie
She has said it before. Now she's saying it again.
"Zero Dark Thirty" filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow has written at length in an essay published in the LA Times about the scenes of torture featured in the movie, insisting once more than "depiction is not endorsement."
The controversy has dogged the movie for weeks as politicians and pundits attacked the movie, which was based on screenwriter/producer Mark Boal's interviews with intelligence and military sources, for showing CIA agents beating and torturing suspects who later give up information that leads to Osama bin Laden.
In the essay, Bigelow declares herself to be a pacifist who abhors the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" the movie shows, but says she felt obliged to put on screen the gruesome details of what was done in the name of counter-terrorism.
An excerpt:
"First of all: 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.
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.
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 comes at a critical time for the movie, which just opened nationally last weekend, coming in at first place with $24 million at the box office. It's also a strong contender for several Oscars, including best original screenplay for Boal, best actress for star Jessica Chastain, and best picture — although Bigelow was snubbed in the directing category.
Her essay in the LA Times expresses things she has already stated several times. "I'm not sure I have anything new to add, but I can try to be concise and clear," she wrote.
Can this help at the box office? Does it need to if it's already faring well? Will this satisfy Academy voters who may be troubled by the criticism?
We'll see as it plays out. Right now, the only certainty is that sometimes in an echo chamber, you have to repeat yourself.