Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — The filmmaker behind an Osama bin Laden documentary at the Sundance Film Festival says the debate over the accuracy of Hollywood’s take on the story detracts from the deeper moral questions involved.
Greg Barker, director of “Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden,” said criticism over Kathryn Bigelow’s Academy Award-nominated “Zero Dark Thirty” is a political issue that’s over-simplifying the matter.
“Zero Dark Thirty” has drawn fire from Washington lawmakers who say the film inaccurately depicts torture as integral in producing leads that led to bin Laden’s death in a Navy SEALs raid in Pakistan in 2011.
“The fact is, what our special operations do is conduct kill-capture operations all the time, and many people die in those,” Barker said. “Maybe that’s what we want as a country, but we have to actually address it and understand it to really know what’s going on. And so I just think that trying to say, well, was it coercive interrogation? I mean, maybe, probably, is my personal opinion, there was an element of that. Was that all of it? Certainly not. Is that what we should focus on? I don’t think so.”
“Manhunt,” debuting on HBO in May, uses extensive interviews with CIA officers, military operatives and others involved in tracking bin Laden as he rose to power calling for jihad against the United States in the 1990s and in the war on terror after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Much of the story parallels events dramatized in “Zero Dark Thirty,” starring Jessica Chastain as a CIA analyst named Maya who obsessively pursues bin Laden for years.
Barker and ex-CIA agents interviewed for “Manhunt” said “Zero Dark Thirty” correctly depicts that women in the CIA were at the heart of the bin Laden chase. But it still is a Hollywood distillation made to entertain wide audiences, they said.
“It is entertaining, especially the part about the SEAL raid,” said Nada Bakos, who worked as a CIA analyst and later a targeting officer focusing on Iraq. “I understand they have to condense things down to different characters, but Maya’s definitely a compilation of a lot of different people who worked at the agency and worked on this over the years.”
Marty Martin, a CIA case officer who led the hunt for bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks, said interrogations did not occur the way they are shown in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Asked if torture produced tips that helped find bin Laden, Martin would only say that he believes “enhanced interrogation techniques” were useful.
Martin said he believes such methods have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
“This is America. We need to have this debate,” Martin said. “If you want to make a decision that 5,000 people can die because you don’t want to make a bad guy feel uncomfortable, that’s a decision we have. But then, you bear that responsibility, and you’ll look in those victims’ relatives’ eyes after the fact. But the fact is, that debate and that discussion needs to occur, and we live in a free society where that needs to happen.”
Ex-CIA analyst Cindy Storer said that right after Sept. 11, she decided she did not want to be involved in coercive methods, yet she concedes that valuable information resulted.
“It doesn’t mean I didn’t use the information that came from it. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect the people who made the decision to do that,” Storer said. “I know that’s useful. So this black-and-white discussion of, it’s not useful at all, it’s totally useful, it’s ridiculous. It is in the gray.”
Filmmaker Barker said the debate needs to cut deeper than simple for-or-against opinions about torture. Whether from al-Qaeda or some other source, “we’re going to be back in this situation again,” Barker said.
“And there will be people in the shadows making decisions on our behalf, and what I’m hoping to do is kind of shed some light by telling a great story, but also shed some light on what those decisions, how those decisions are reached, and the human dimension of that,” Barker said. “It’s a complex issue, and we’re best looking at it dispassionately, and all of us have a discussion about what this last decade was all about to us.”
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)