Triumph of the Will?

Our last Impression Under Water of Oscar winning film makers Bigelow and Boal and their Academy Award Nominated Zero Dark Thirty was that far from giving a ‘journalistic’ view ‘based on first hand accounts of actual events’, the film was just a propagandist hagiography of torture totally contradicted by the testimony under oath of John Brennan among others.

Now we know that our ‘brave, boundary breaking artists willing to explore the dark side of the War Against a Tactic that makes cowards wet their pants (see London during the Blitz)’ are nothing more than sycophantic lapdogs willing to trade their souls and vision for ‘access’.

CIA requested Zero Dark Thirty rewrites, memo reveals

Ben Child, The Guardian

Tuesday 7 May 2013 11.47 EDT

In January the US Senate intelligence committee launched an investigation into whether Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were granted “inappropriate access” to classified CIA material following concern from high-profile members over the film’s depiction of torture in the search for the al-Qaida chief. The probe was dropped in February after Zero Dark Thirty, which had initially been tipped as an Oscars frontrunner, left the world’s most famous film ceremony with just a single award for sound editing.

However according to Gawker it has now emerged that the CIA did successfully pressure Boal to remove certain scenes from the Zero Dark Thirty script, some of which might have cast the agency in a negative light. Details emerged in a memo released under a US Freedom of Information Act request. It summarises five conference calls held in late 2011 for staff in the agency’s Office of Public Affairs “to help promote an appropriate portrayal of the agency and the Bin Laden operation”.

Several elements of the draft screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty were changed for the final film upon agency request, according to the memo. Jessica Chastain’s Maya, the film’s main protagonist, was originally seen participating in an early water-boarding torture scene, but in the final film she is only an observer. A scene in which a dog is used to interrogate a suspect was also excised from the shooting script. Finally a segue in which agents party on a rooftop in Islamabad, drinking and shooting off an AK47 in celebration, was also removed upon CIA insistence. This was agreed to despite the documented use of aggressive dogs in US interrogations of terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay in the early days of George W Bush’s war on terror, and despite some of the photographs from the later Abu Ghraib scandal featuring dogs menacing naked prisoners.

Here’s a link to the Gawker piece- Newly Declassified Memo Shows CIA Shaped Zero Dark Thirty‘s Narrative by Adrian Chen, 5/06/13 6:04pm.  It includes futher links to the actual memo in .PDF and text formats.

Declassified Memo Shows ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Filmmakers Played Role of Willing Propagandists for CIA

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Tuesday May 7, 2013 9:55 am

The memo opens by noting that conference calls took place on October 26, November 1, November 18, one other day in November and December 5 in 2011, where “Mark Boal verbally shared the screenplay for the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Bin Ladin movie with [Office of Public Affairs] officers.”

“From an Agency perspective,” the memo reads, “the purpose for these discussions was for OPA officers to help promote an appropriate portrayal of the Agency and the Bin Ladin operation. Boal noted early on that, while it is known that he conducted research for his screenplay from a variety of sources, the characters and storylines are heavily fictionalized while based on true events.”

The memo indicates that the public affairs officers advised Boal to edit an interrogation scene with a character “modeled after Ammar al-Baluchi”.

While they deny Waterboarding, the CIA has admitted Ammar al-Baluchi was subjected to “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” which may have included any or all of the following-

  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Exposure to extreme heat and cold.
  • Confined quarters.
  • Psychological and physical abuse.
  • The use of psychotropic drugs.

Use of attack dogs

Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, was going to be actively involved in torturing a detainee. The CIA objected and Boal ultimately rewrote the scene.

Rafiq al-Hami, a Tunisian national, was arrested in Iran in November 2001. According to the Open Society Foundation’s report, “Globalizing Torture,” when he was held in “three CIA ‘dark sites in Afghanistan,” he was “stripped naked, threatened with dogs, shackled in painful “stress” positions for hours, punched, kicked and exposed to extremes of heat and cold.”

Al-Hami’s case is a known instance. There must be multiple unknown instances, where detainees were threatened by dogs. So, it would not have been terribly far-fetched to have dogs appear in an interrogation scene. Yet, Boal took it out in deference to the CIA.

The Veil of Secrecy

(O)fficers were also making sure techniques or instances of torture that had not been declassified were not being depicted the film. If one had been found, the officers would have likely asked Boal to take it out because it was not publicly known that technique had been used-regardless of whether it was illegal or inhumane.

Also, evidently, Boal wrote a fictional scene where Agency officers were socializing that the officers found objectionable.

The CIA did not want the public getting the wrong idea that agents sometimes behave like proud, unsophisticated warrior-like Americans. Audiences would never have thought once about how bad it looked to mix drinking and weapons. But, again, Boal complied.

Officers took exception to a “cinematic device” Boal was using, where May conducted research through “reviewing film of detainee interviews.” Multiple videos were analyzed as she looked for clues. The problem the officers had was that “detainee sessions were not videotaped and used for research and analysis.” Boal understood but “visually” it was the “only way to show research in an interesting cinematic way.” Since it was just factually inaccurate and did not make the CIA look bad, the officers “did not request Boal take this scene out of the movie.” [The CIA is known to have recorded some interrogations that included waterboardings, but tapes were destroyed by pro-torture advocate and head of the clandestine service, Jose Rodriguez.]

“Seduced by their sources”

It had already been revealed that the CIA saw the film as a great opportunity for the agency. Judicial Watch obtained documents showing an e-mail exchange on June 7, 2011, where “CIA spokesperson Marie E. Harf openly discussed providing preferential treatment to the Boal/Bigelow project over others related to the bin Laden killing.” He wrote, “I know we don’t pick favorites but it makes sense to get behind a winning horse…Mark and Kathryn’s movie is going to be the first and the biggest. It’s got the most money behind it, and two Oscar winners on board.”

On July 20, 2011, in an e-mail, Boal thanked then-CIA Director of Public Affairs George Little for “pulling for him” inside the agency. It made “all the difference.” Little responded, “…I can’t tell you how excited we all are (at DOD and CIA) about the project…PS – I want you to know how good I’ve been not mentioning the premiere tickets [smiley face].”

“Boal has been working with us and with the CIA (via George Little) for initial context briefings,” another e-mail sent on June 15, 2011, read. “At DoD this has been provided by Mike Vickers, and at CIA by relevant officials with the full knowledge and full approval/support of Director Panetta.”

Thus, it would seem film director Alex Gibney was correct when he critiqued the film for its portrayal of torture and wrote, “Boal and Bigelow were seduced by their sources.”

Documents Reveal Zero Dark Thirty Had CIA Script Rewrite

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Tuesday May 7, 2013 5:49 am

Unfortunately for Bigelow and Boal the CIA were lying to them – something John Brennan admitted during his confirmation testimony. Not that this was an incredible revelation as the Senate had already blown the whistle on ZDT’s promotion of the CIA’s propaganda on torture.

And it is important to note these are editorial and artistic changes, well after the initial (false) information was supplied to Boal on what events occurred and why. Is it the job now of the CIA to edit and produce popular films?

“We honored certain requests to keep operational details and the identity of the participants confidential. But as with any publication or work of art, the final decisions as to the content were made by the filmmakers.” – Boal

And Leni Riefenstahl was just a photographer.

1 comment

  1. ek hornbeck

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