*This story has been updated to reflect Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s statement.
A day after the Academy Awards failed to recognize Zero Dark Thirty with any major awards — and nearly seven weeks after snubbing director Kathryn Bigelow altogether — the U.S. Senate closed its investigation into “inappropriate” meetings and conversations that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal may have had with members of the CIA to research their movie, which tells the story of the secret American effort to track and kill Osama bin Laden. Reuters cited an anonymous congressional aide who said the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would not seek further action against the filmmakers, who came under fire in early 2012 when it was revealed they had close contact with several government agencies.
Zero Dark Thirty has been a lightning rod for controversy since even before it opened on Dec. 19. Initially, Republicans suspected the film would be wielded as pro-Obama propaganda in the heat of a presidential election. Later, politicians from both sides of the aisle challenged the accuracy of certain scenes, notably its depiction of waterboarding and other cruel interrogation tactics that are considered to be torture on suspected terrorists. Sen. Feinstein accused the filmmakers of “misleading” viewers with the impression that waterboarding contributed to the stealth raid that killed bin Laden in his Pakistani compound in May 2011. “Do I think that Feinstein used the movie as a publicity tool to get a conversation going about her report?” Boal told the Wall Street Journal last week, referring to her committee’s report on enhanced interrogations. “I believe it.”
Sen. Feinstein released a statement late Tuesday, saying the Senate Intelligence Committee did not request information from the filmmakers. “The committee has not made any contact with the filmmakers, did not request documents from any individual associated with the film, and have not conducted any investigation into the film whatsoever. We have simply asked questions of the intelligence community pertinent to our oversight responsibilities,” she wrote.
Her full statement:
“In December, Senators Levin, McCain and I wrote to Acting CIA Director Michael Morell seeking information provided to the filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty by the CIA. The CIA responded with information about its interaction with the filmmakers. I see no need to request further information. In a separate letter, Senators Levin, McCain and I requested the basis for CIA’s view that enhanced interrogation techniques provided some intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The CIA’s response to that letter is forthcoming.
“Finally, Senators Levin, McCain and I wrote to Sony Pictures in December and outlined our view that scenes in the film which credit CIA’s interrogation techniques with leading directly to the takedown of bin Laden were inaccurate and misleading. The committee has not made any contact with the filmmakers, did not request documents from any individual associated with the film, and have not conducted any investigation into the film whatsoever. We have simply asked questions of the intelligence community pertinent to our oversight responsibilities.”
The torture controversy suffocated the movie, with Bigelow being compared in print to Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and the filmmakers repeatedly forced to explain and defend their choices amid scathing criticism. Once considered a favorite for Best Picture, Zero Dark Thirty received five nominations and won only one — a tie for Best Sound Editing. It’s grossed $91.5 million at the box-office.
Neither filmmaker chose to comment on the latest development.