Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar contender “Zero Dark Thirty” has been “unofficially” banned in Pakistan, according to a report by NBC News. Although the film about the manhunt to kill the world’s most-wanted terrorist has not been officially released in the country, its unfavorable depiction of Pakistan has theater owners there reportedly refusing to purchase the film from distributors. One local distributor told NBC’s Waj S. Khan that the movie showed an inaccurate picture of his native country. “If you’re going to say something about a complicated part of the world, then you should say it right,” he added.
Bin Laden, the leader of al- Qaeda, was hiding in a military compound in Abbottabad when Navy Seals took him out on May 2, 2011. The Pakistani government claimed to have no prior knowledge of the operation.
“Zero Dark Thirty,” which has also courted stateside controversy for its depictions of torture, has attracted criticism for what some Pakistani commentators say are basic factual inaccuracies. Last month, Nadeem Paracha, a columnist for Dawn, one of Pakistan’s most prominent English-language newspapers, cataloged a list of facts he said Bigelow and company got wrong. Among them is the fact that Pakistanis speak Urdu, English or other regional languages -- not Arabic as the film depicts. Paracha also wrote that Pakistani men “do not go around wearing 17th and 18th century headgear in markets,” as shown in the film.
A burgeoning distributors’ boycott of the film has been known about for several weeks. Earlier this month, a representative for the distribution company Cinepax told the Wall Street Journal that he believed the movie would humiliate Pakistanis. “It has several scenes which could make us feel humiliated,” he told the paper. “It is against the interests of the Pakistani nation.”
Despite the boycott, the film is widely available in Pakistan via pirated DVDs.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is not the only Oscar contender to court international controversy this year. Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which depicts a covert CIA-backed mission to rescue six Americans during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, has been banned by Iranian officials, who believe the film negatively depicts the Middle Eastern nation. Mohammad Hosseini, the country's minister of culture and Islamic guidance, described “Argo” as “an offensive act” against Iran.
Last month, the Guardian reported that Iranian filmmakers are planning to make their own film about the hostage crisis. That film, titled “The General Staff,” will be produced by Iran’s government-run Arts Bureau and directed by the Iranian filmmaker Ataollah Salmanian.
“Argo,” like “Zero Dark Thirty,” is widely available on bootlegged DVDs. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, underground bootleggers in Iran say it is one of their biggest sellers in years.