Kathryn Bigelow: Torture scenes in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ are ‘honest’


As the debate over “Zero Dark Thirty” and torture rages on, director Kathryn Bigelow staunchly defended the Oscar-nominated film Tuesday on “The Colbert Report.”

Describing the movie as a “first rough cut” of history, Bigelow expressed her own unequivocal objection to torture, which she characterized as “reprehensible.” But she said she would have been “whitewashing” history if she had chosen not to include scenes of enhanced interrogation.

Colbert noted the difficult position Bigelow was in with regard to her critics: Although she’s being attacked by many on the left who see “Zero Dark Thirty” as an explicit endorsement of torture, they also “would have been screaming bloody murder” if she left it out.


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“It was also part of the history and we wanted to tell the story respectfully and honestly,” Bigelow replied. “And so since it’s part of the history we had to show a few sequences of enhanced interrogation.”

Curiously, the abridged interview that aired Tuesday did not include the most intense exchange in the conversation. Colbert asked Bigelow about the veracity of a sequence in the film in which Maya (Jessica Chastain) gathers information from videotaped sessions with detainees subjected to various enhanced interrogation techniques.

“It’s part of the history, it’s part of the story. Could you have found the house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, without the detainee program? I don’t know, I think it’ll be debated for perhaps years if not decades to come,” Bigelow replied.

Not satisfied with her answer, Colbert sharpened his line of inquiry, asking whether Bigelow thought it might be possible that she had been “duped” by her sources in order to make the case for torture, as some of her critics have alleged.

Bigelow initially replied with a question that didn’t exactly strengthen her argument -- “Are you trying to say that people in Washington spin?” – but in the end she defended the film’s version of history, calling it “a fair assessment of those times.”


As for whether she’s prepared for the possibility of testifying before Senate, Bigelow said that while “no one is ever ready for something like that,” she stands by the movie: “I believe in the film, I’m proud of the film, I wouldn’t change anything in the movie because it’s based on an honest telling of the story as we know it.”

Colbert wrapped up the interview by asking if Bigelow planned to “play it safe” with her next film, perhaps by tackling a less controversial subject “like gun control.”

“I don’t know if I’m capable of doing that,” she said.


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