Could the release of “Zero Dark Thirty” provoke violent protests against the U.S. in response to the film’s searing depictions of “enhanced interrogation” — the coercive, super-secret and bitterly debated methods used by the CIA against al Qaeda terrorism suspects?
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s acclaimed docudrama about the pursuit of Osama bin Laden opened Wednesday at five theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
The film, an early Oscar favorite, graphically depicts coercive CIA interrogation techniques, including the waterboarding, domination and psychosexual humiliation of a detainee, who is, variously, collared and leashed like a dog, stuffed into a cramped “confinement box” and stripped naked for questioning in the presence of a female investigator.
Although the portrayal of such treatment given to a prisoner, regardless of his religion, may be deemed offensive by viewers of any faith, the film steers clear of depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad or showing the Koran being desecrated — two acts considered blasphemous by many Muslims.
Muslims have expressed outrage in response to the anti-Islam video “Innocence of Muslims,” the unintentional burning of Korans and a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.
Although “Zero Dark Thirty” doesn’t enter into any of that territory and nothing suggests a similar chain of events will follow the film’s release, a senior defense official said U.S. forces are always on alert.
“I doubt extremist murderers are going to garner much sympathy in the West or in the Muslim world, but we’ll keep an eye on things,” the official said.
“This isn’t exactly the first time this issue has surfaced. It’s been debated for years, and other major Hollywood productions have fictionalized similar themes. It’s important to keep this in perspective. I haven’t seen the movie, but one thing is for sure: It has a happy ending, not just for the United States, but for Muslims around the world targeted by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.”