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Bigelow directs "Zero Dark Thirty" torture critics to Washington

Director and producer of the movie Kathryn Bigelow waves at the premiere of "Zero Dark Thirty"at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California
Director and producer of the movie Kathryn Bigelow waves at the premiere of "Zero Dark Thirty"at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The director of Oscar-nominated thriller "Zero Dark Thirty" on Wednesday defended the film's depiction of torture in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, saying criticism would better be directed at the U.S. officials who ordered such policies.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Kathryn Bigelow said she personally opposed any use of torture, but said it was a part of the decade-long hunt for the al Qaeda leader that the film could not ignore.

"Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement," Bigelow wrote of criticism of the movie's torture scenes from Washington politicians, the media and human rights groups.

"I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen," said Bigelow, who won two Oscars in 2010 for her Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker."

"Zero Dark Thirty" was nominated last week for five Academy Awards in February, including best picture, screenplay and actress for Jessica Chastain.

But Bigelow was overlooked in the directing category in a snub that many Hollywood awards watchers attributed to weeks of negative publicity over the film.

A group of senators in December chided distributor Sony Pictures in a letter, calling the film "grossly inaccurate and misleading" for suggesting torture helped the United States capture bin Laden in May 2011.

Actor David Clennon, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that selects Oscar winners, has urged fellow members not vote for the movie, accusing it of promoting torture.

However, in its first week of nationwide release, the movie topped the North American box office on Sunday, taking in $24 million.

Bigelow said her personal belief was that "Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn't mean it was the key to finding bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn't ignore. War, obviously, isn't pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences."

"Bin Laden wasn't defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation," she concluded.

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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