A lesson to learn from the ‘Zero’ controversy

Variety editor Tim Gray has a strong column today decrying the political swirl around “Zero Dark Thirty.” An excerpt:

… The negative intersections are the attacks on the depiction of
fracking in “Promised Land” and, worse, the government’s notification to
Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow that they may be called before a Senate
Investigation Committee hearing into “Zero Dark Thirty” and its
depiction of torture. No date is set, but they were told they’ll be
given short notice before being asked to testify.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is the first pic to be singled out for D.C. investigation since the blacklist era more than 60 years ago.

The
horror of the HUAC blacklist is not just that it occurred but that
people allowed it to continue for so long. The “Zero” saga is a modern
variation of a blacklist: It’s one of many smear campaigns that spread
like wildfire in a digital world and that the mainstream media then
picks up but never follows through on the outcome. …

… Even if the Senate hearing is cancelled — and one profoundly hopes
that it is — the nastiness could discourage filmmakers from tackling
hot-button topics. On the other hand, the film is doing surprisingly
well for a tough look at current events, with five Oscar noms, $78.6
million at the domestic box office and overseas B.O. of $12.8 million in
only eight territories.

Despite the pressures, Boal smiled last
week and said, “I feel pretty blessed with this film.” Sony has
domestic, Universal overseas. Speaking of Sony, he said, “This is a huge
global conglomerate. And they released this movie! In theaters! And put
their name on it! There are not a lot of executives who would have done
that.”

I’ve always been careful during awards season to never
spotlight any one nominee, in the interest of fairness. But this is an
exceptional case because of the senators’ letter and the threatened
Senate hearing. Such things have never happened in my 30 years at
Variety. For the sake of Hollywood and the country, let’s hope they
never happen again.

Unfortunately, there is no end in sight to the
spread of misinformation in a digital world, with no evidence, and no
subsequent clarifications, retractions or accountability. To paraphrase
Joseph Nye Welch’s question to the HUAC committee, have you people no
sense of decency?

Read the entire column here.

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