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'Zero Dark Thirty' Writer Says Investigations 'Chill' Free Speech

Boal“Zero Dark Thirty” screenwriter and producer Mark Boal launched a vigorous defense of free speech in a talk at LMU this week, calling for a new “disruptive technology” of filmmaking that freely weaves fact and fiction while covering current and sometimes still-ongoing events.

“For me, right now, the real power of filmmaking is found at the intersection of investigation and imagination, where reporting and creativity combine to offer something new,” Boal said. “A blend of current events and creativity.”

Boal, an Oscar winner who is nominated again for his script about the hunt for and killing of terrorist Osama Bin Laden, spoke at Loyola Marymount as part of the Los Angeles Loyolan's First Amendment Week.

He was invited by ASLMU and members of The Loyolan staff to discuss freedom of speech and issues of government censorship and access relating to his latest film.

“Political speech is essential speech in a democracy,” Boal said. “ ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is political speech that contributes to the discussion of how our government works.”

Some politicians have alleged that during the making of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow were given too much access to secret government documents and information. House and Senate committees launched investigations into the filmmakers’ contact with the intelligence agency.

Additionally, the movie has proven controversial for its depictions of torture. In a letter last month calling for another investigation, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and Carl Levin said that “Zero Dark Thirty” falsely portrayed CIA agents uncovering key information about Bin Laden’s hiding place through “coercive interrogation techniques.”

Boal said the investigations into the film reminded him of McCarthy-era intimidation, and asserted the right of filmmakers to use creative license when producing art. At the same time, he noted, it’s well-known that U.S. operatives did engage in activities verging on torture during the hunt for Bin Laden.

“If we left the torture out, we’d be whitewashing history,” he said. “Interrogations were clearly part of how this lead developed.”