The Q&A: Kathryn Bigelow
KATHRYN BIGELOW, an American director, chooses her words carefully. As her new film, “Zero Dark Thirty”, about the ten-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, opens in cinemas, she is facing a Senate investigation into whether the CIA allowed her team “inappropriate access” to intelligence during their research for the film. It has also sparked protests over what some claim is an endorsement of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including waterboarding. But Ms Bigelow and Sony Pictures have argued fervently that they are simply telling a story, not supporting it.
The political furore is new territory for Ms Bigelow. Once best known for directing the 1991 surfer-dude movie “Point Break”, she reappeared four years ago with “The Hurt Locker”, a devastating portrait of the Iraq war, for which she became the first woman to win an Oscar for best director.
Ms Bigelow spoke to The Economist about facts versus fiction, protecting sources and filming torture scenes.
How factual is “Zero Dark Thirty”?
I would characterise it as accurate in the way a movie can be accurate. It’s not a documentary. It’s also ten years compressed into two and a half hours, so you have to approach it with that perspective. That being said, it is based on first-hand accounts and a rare and interesting glimpse into the intelligence community that my screenwriter Mark Boal [who also wrote “The Hurt Locker”] then turned into a screenplay.
Did you hope to achieve anything with “Zero Dark Thirty” beyond making a fine thriller?
The war on terror has affected everybody around the world, especially families of 9/11, the military and intelligence professionals. For that reason, this was the story of a lifetime and I felt humbled to be able to tell it: to capture the essence of a very long, dark decade and shine a bit of a light on it.