'Zero Dark Thirty' Controversy

Mark Boal and Mark Bowden discuss the film's controversial depiction of enhanced interrogation.
8:09 | 01/27/13

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Transcript for 'Zero Dark Thirty' Controversy
Can I be honest with you? I am bad news. I'm not your friend. I'm not going to help you. I'm going to break you. Any questions? A clip from "zero dark thirty," the critically acclaimed drama about the operation to capture osama bin laden, up for five academy awards and also sparking controversy because of its depiction of so-called enhanced interrogation. We're joined now by the oscar-winning screenwriter and producer of the film, mark boal, plus best-selling author of "black hawk down," who's just written a book about the bin laden operation called "the finish," mark bowden. I have known mark boal and kathryn bigelow since about 2008 when "the hurt locker" was released, and I watched you, mark, during the last year or so report out the story of "zero dark thirty." I have no idea who you talked to. But at the very beginning of the movie, it says it is based on firsthand accounts of actual events. That's what's created the controversy, because some say that's torture, it didn't really happen that way. Did it? These topics are controversial. I think the controversy in a lot of ways predates the film. And I believe that we captured the essence of what happened and so do many other people who have lived through it. Mark bowden, I know you're a fan but you've talked about a little bit and you wrote a book on the subject, as well, that perhaps it shouldn't have been told as a journalistic story. I think it's really an unfair burden of expectation to put on a feature film to call it journalistic. I mean, journalism is very detailed, you know, you try to get down in the weeds and sort out exactly what happened, and i don't think that a feature film is really the place where that happens. Mark, you call it a reported -- yes, look, this had to be researched and reported because when we started the project there wasn't a lot of public information. There's still little information about this, but I approached the research the way I would have any article or if i was writing a book but then there is a second stage where you take that research and compile it and transform it into a screenplay. It's dramatized, so I think there's been a little bit of confusion about those two different steps and fortunately most people who go to the movies understand a movie is not the same as a documentary. Director kathryn bigelow is on the cover of "time" magazine this week. She says she thinks "it's a deeply moral movie that questions the use of force. It questions what was done in the name of finding bin laden." Is that the idea? I think that's a fair assessment and it is -- it's a complicated movie. People want everything to be black and white on the subject matter and I think what kathryn is talking about is it's a lot grayer and that there are deep questions that the film raises. The big controversy is there is a senate panel that is looking into this movie. Head of the senate intelligence committee dianne feinstein along WITH SENATOR john McCain and carl levin wrote a letter calling the film "grossly suggestion that torture helped extract information that led to the location of osama bin laden." But I also want to play a clip of an interview I recently did with the former cia director, leon panetta. Well, it's a great movie as far as the main subject of that movie is concerned. You know, I -- I know a lot about, you know, the kind of human effort that was involved here on all sides to deal with it. But was it factual in ways? I mean, I think they did a good job kind at, you know, indicating how some of this was pieced together. Why these different opinions? What does that tell you? It tells you it's a great movie because it stirs up a lot of conversation and discussion and thought. You know, there's political truth, and then there's the truth. I think that the reason that the movie has been attacked is that there's a political narrative here that at its core argues that torture is unnecessary and ineffective and that any of the excesses of the bush administration in the early years contributed nothing to the final outcome here of bin laden. The truth is that, in fact, you know, we embraced as a country very stern, cruel methods in the beginning to try to get information, and out of a lot of those interrogations emerged the name ahmed the kuwaiti, ahmed from kuwait, who was thought to be a close associate of bin laden. Chris dodd, head of the motion picture association, said that if there is a senate investigation, it would have a chilling effect. My understanding is there already is an investigation, and this film has been investigated by various political parties for over a year, and I do agree with that. I think that it could discourage other screenwriters or writers of any kind from making topical movies. It could discourage studios from releasing them. Criticism is fine, and I can take criticism on board, but there's a difference between that and investigation and that crosses a line that hasn't been crossed really since THE '40s WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT Government investigating movies. What is this movie? What were you trying to do? It is in so many ways the first draft of history. For me it was an opportunity to shine a light on the last ten years and portray the human beings at the center of the hunt for the world's most dangerous man. Mark? You know, to the extent that it helps that story enter the popular imagination and the culture and our history, it's done, you know, a wonderful service. Thank you both very much for joining us this morning, and speaking of service and sacrifice, we now pause to honor our fellow americans who do just that. ♪ this week the pentagon released the name of one soldier killed in afghanistan. And now we turn to a special voice this morning, someone i recognized this week from long ago, a soldier president obama turned to at the commander of chief's inaugural ball via satellite from afghanistan. Mr. President, we're honored to be able to join you tonight. I last sat down with major general abe abrams in 2005 when he was a colonel after a brutal year in iraq for the soldiers and the families back home. Our families are incredible. I mean, they've really -- they've gone through an awful lot. I told my wife I wouldn't do this. They go to memorial ceremonies, every one. There were 169 memorials that year for the first cavalry division, but abrams is now back on the front lines. Reconnecting this week he told me, "i count my blessings every day. We were honored to have the opportunity to give the president a shoutout." That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your sunday with us, and check out "world news with david muir" tonight. George is back next week, and we hope you will be too.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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