Lionel Chetwynd, with some 60 film or TV credits to his name, knows Hollywood, especially making films with military themes.
He finds the upcoming kill-Osama movie being made by the Hurt Locker duo to be troubling.
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.
Notwithstanding this, the filmmakers came back for Pentagon help in this new film and were granted two meetings with the under secretary of defense for intelligence, Michael Vickers, a senior political appointee. Of the Obama administration. To be given that level of access to the Pentagon after previous bad faith by the filmmakers is such a departure from current practice one is forced to suspect significant pressure was applied to the Pentagon by its civilian political masters.