HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — The critics agree “Zero Dark Thirty” — a film depicting the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden — is gritty and moving.
The movie is also filled with scenes of disturbing and graphic torture and has many people upset. But not about the images and what they depict — what the images suggest.
The film has garnered five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. But it’s also beset with controversy and criticism.
CBS2 and KCAL9 Political Reporter Dave Bryan went to a theater in Hollywood Friday evening and spoke to a group of people who say the movie glorifies torture.
While the film has been playing in Los Angeles since mid-December, it opened nationwide Friday.
A small group — protesting with hoods over their heads — stood outside the theater with signs denouncing torture, drones and indefinite detention.
The signs prominently listed that group’s website as worldcantwait.net.
Another group, the interfaith United For Justice and Peace, say that two Hollywood stars — namely Martin Sheen and Ed Asner — have issued an appeal to other actors to vote their conscience on whether to reward the movie with a win on Oscar night.
Bryan also reports three prominent Senators — Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin — have also written a letter of protest to the film’s studio.
Critics of the movie say the torture scenes suggest the United States would never have captured or killed bin Laden without torturing detainees.
Protester Luis Rivas said, “It directly and implicitly says that torture works and that the United States has successfully carried out its agenda using torture.”
Bryan reports that some current and former CIA personnel have stated that “enhanced interrogation techniques” did lead to vital information in the manhunt.
Phil Mudd, a former CIA deputy director, said “The information I saw derived from the detainees we had in CIA facilities — and that includes detainees where they used enhanced techniques — was invaluable. I would call it crucial.”
Jessica Chastain, Oscar-nominated star of the movie, even admits she grappled with torture taking center stage in the film. “I had trouble sleeping to be honest,” she said. “I had a lot of anxiety about whether we were telling the right story … there are some very difficult scenes in this movie. We show very intense interrogations.”
Director Kathryn Bigelow told “CBS This Morning”, “I thought it was important we told a true story. And it’s part of the history. It’s controversial but it’s part of the history.”
Bryan said the Hollywood protest was not well-received by everyone who walked by. Said one man, “The movie was brilliant. I suggest everyone go see it. I mean, the movie doesn’t celebrate torture. It obviously doesn’t. The movie is about something more deep than that.”
Said protester Rivas, “No one wants to see this movie banned. That’s the last thing we want. People should see this movie. In my opinion. But torture should be put in context and this movie glorifies it.”
Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, wrote in a statement, “‘Zero Dark Thirty’ does not advocate torture. To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate. We fully support Kathryn Bigelow and [writer] Mark Boal and stand behind this extraordinary movie. We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda. This film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an artist’s right of expression is abhorrent.”