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The Curious Case of the Osama-Obama Movie: Hollywood — But Not Politics — As Usual

Pace Ben Smith of Politico, why the proposed Kathryn Bigelow-Mark Boal motion picture on the capture of Bin Laden is a quiet outrage.

by
Lionel Chetwynd

Bio

August 12, 2011 - 12:01 am
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Before alienating a significant portion of my professional colleagues and possibly irritating Sony Pictures (to whom I am currently pitching a project) by explaining why the proposed Kathryn Bigelow-Mark Boal motion picture on the capture of Bin Laden is a quiet outrage, I should no doubt credential my megaphone.

Some films for which I have been responsible include: The Hanoi Hilton, To Heal a Nation, Ike: Countdown to D-day, Heroes of Desert Storm, Kissinger & Nixon, and especially DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. I cull these titles from my sixty odd credits because each dealt with military and/or political subjects that required cooperation at the highest levels, usually a considerable obstacle.

But even more difficult than obtaining that access, my bigger problem was often within the Hollywood community itself who eyed any such project with which I was involved as suspect; as one of the few outspoken conservatives in Hollywood over a period of 30 years I was hardly mainstream and always subjected to extreme rigor by my enablers at studios and networks.

Would that I had been so coddled as Ms. Bigelow and Mr. Boal appear to be; perhaps I fawned over the wrong people.

 

To be fair to Sony, this proposed Osama capture project is independently financed (by whom, I wonder) and the studio is involved only as the distributor. Also, my knowledge of the enterprise is only what has been reported in the public media, but there is enough in that to easily see the astounding degree to which the Hollywood-Washington liberal access is mutually corrupting, and is disgracing a popular culture that was once a jewel in America’s patrimony, the means by which our message of a free society conquered the world more easily than Roman legions or British soldiers.

In making a docudrama (and I believe I have done more than any other active American filmmaker) there are three critical factors: proximity of production to actual events, access to the actual participants, and release date.  And in each and every one of these elements this proposed project doesn’t merely fail the smell test, it leaves a trail that reeks from the White House to the smart bistros of Beverly Hills.

The most troubling discontinuity from accepted norms has to do with access. As any filmmaker, of any political stripe, can tell you, the Pentagon has an open door policy. They will offer their aid and facilities to any filmmaker with only two provisos: the entire content of the script is submitted and deemed to be generally consistent with the real world military; and, once you accept their support you must agree to their oversight of how you employ their resources.

The second of these is quite legitimate and consistent with case law and the doctrine of “fair use”: once you involve someone in your project you cannot use that involvement in ways they have interdicted — a cousin, if you will, of the Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.  What is the consequence of breaking your end of the bargain?  You are liable for civil damages.

But the non-litigious Pentagon simply maintains a policy of subsequent non-cooperation with offenders. Everyone knows that, and that’s the deal. Which brings us to the Bigelow-Boal film The Hurt Locker. According to knowledgable sources in the American military, during the filming of The Hurt Locker Ms. Bigelow violated her agreement with the Pentagon, amongst other things using an American military vehicle to enter a Palestinian area to film a demonstration. Scenes were added but kept from the Pentagon, depicting U.S. personnel abusing detainees.

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