Pre-Oscars 2013: “Zero Dark Thirty” spurs debate

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Author: Mallory Fencil

“Zero Dark Thirty” is a cinematic work that marks
the documentation of one of the most important events of our
generation. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (director of 2009 Best Picture
and Best Director winner “The Hurt Locker”) and starring Best Actress
nominee Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty” has proven to be a strong
competitor in this year’s Oscars, against films as critically acclaimed and heavily discussed as “Les Miserables,” and “Django Unchained.” Up for five Oscars this year, the film
is not the most nominated film, a title that instead goes to “Lincoln” with
twelve nominations; however, “Zero Dark Thirty” has continued to
dominate most Oscar discussions due to both controversy and influential
artistic choices.

As the twin towers collapsed onto one of the most powerful cities in the world, Americans reacted in grief and indignation to the first major terrorist attack on American soil within the past several decades and the largest in American history. The memory of 9/11 exists within the archive of many childhoods. Subsequently, on May 1, 2011, a decade after the 9/11 attacks, when President Obama announced that fellow American citizens had found and killed Osama Bin Laden, almost every household from sea to shining sea felt the bittersweet relief of vengeance.

Portraying this historical moment for the first time in a mass medium, despite the fact that the film is by no means a documentary, can be considered an important milestone in the development of the artistic mind. A film exists within three times: the time the film is set, the time the film is made and the time the film is observed. As film evolves, “Zero Dark Thirty” will be among the films that portray this generation both as a film created in and a film about the early twenty first century. Thus creating this film and others like it, including competing nominee “Argo,” is necessary for the future as well as the historical preservation of cinematography. Similar to other historical fictions, “Zero Dark Thirty” will not be viewed as an informational log of details but rather as the complex emotional reaction to history.

Controversy has surrounded the film in regards to the depiction of torture, stirring up the questions of whether torture should be implemented and whether the film condones its use by showing a positive result. However, the film portrayed the result of torture with nuance as both potentially strategically effective, since the desired information was attained, and morally contentious, as the main character and subsequently the audience have to contemplate the idea in a personal and political context.

The use of torture within the film both highlights the emotional effects that crippled the American people and portrays how the pursuit of revenge and war can influence human nature. As any film that attempts to capture a moment in history, “Zero Dark Thirty” uses exaggerated situations and unsavory topics in order to accentuate the effect that 9/11 had on the greater population. Thus, the film is more than deserving of the Oscar if only because of the artistic implications and the historical significance of the subject matter.

The 85th Annual Academy Awards will be broadcast Sunday, Feb. 24th at 4 p.m. (PST). The other Best Picture nominees are “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”

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