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Movies/TV Last Updated: Jul 14th, 2013 - 14:40:05


Torturous Lies
By Esther Iverem--SeeingBlack.com Editor and FIlm Critic
Jan 23, 2013, 23:57

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“Zero Dark Thirty” is the new film by director Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman in Oscar history to win the coveted prize of best director. She won for “The Hurt Locker,” which followed a U.S. soldier in Iraq working in a precarious position on a bomb squad.


Like “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty” is notable for its intensity, suspense and graphic depiction of the so-called “war on terror” waged against primarily people of color in countries in the Middle East and now in Africa.


Both films, quite masterfully, allow us to focus our sympathies and allegiance onto the American military-spy-industrial-complex. At the same time, they block from our minds the deadly and often illegal role played by the U.S. through wars, interventions, occupations, sanctions, torture and assassinations. How fitting it is that when Bigelow won the Oscar, she beat out her ex-husband, James Cameron, and the ground-breaking epic “Avatar,” which—quite conversely in subject matter—lays bare the evils of militarism and imperialism, and champions the fightback of an indigenous, if alien, “people of color.”


“Zero Dark Thirty” is all about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader credited with the September 11, 2001 attacks, which are echoed in audio tapes played at the start of the film. This straight line, from 9/11 to the ultimate capture and murder of bin Laden, includes all that the United States has fostered for more than a decade, including rendition and torture by the CIA. Though CIA officers have made it clear that torture yielded no information that led to the capture and killing of bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty” definitely includes that falsehood in its narrative and makes heroes out of the torturers.


This false narrative and vainglorious depiction is not of small consequence in our country, when recent surveys indicate that a majority of Americans approve of torture, drone warfare and even the extrajudicial killings of Americans. At thr same time, most seem oblivious to the genocide and wreckage we have wrought in the cradle of human civilization.


Bigelow has written, in defense of “Zero Dark Thirty,” that the war on terror has included torture and that she is merely depicting this reality without judgment of it. Such a statement sounds naïve to me.


There is nothing to cheer about in “Zero Dark Thirty,” just like there was nothing to cheer in Saddam Hussein’s hanging or Muammar Gaddafi’s murder on YouTube. If anything, “Zero Dark Thirty” shows America what kind of global empire it has become and why, in reaction, the world hates us.


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