PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — The filmmaker behind an Osama bin Laden documentary at the Sundance Film Festival says the debate over the accuracy of Hollywood's take on the story detracts from the deeper moral questions involved.
Greg Barker, director of "Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden," said criticism over Kathryn Bigelow's Academy Award-nominated "Zero Dark Thirty" is a political issue that's over-simplifying the matter.
"Zero Dark Thirty" has drawn fire from Washington lawmakers who say the film inaccurately depicts torture as integral in producing leads that led to bin Laden's death in a Navy SEALs raid in Pakistan in 2011.
"The fact is, what our special operations do is conduct kill-capture operations all the time, and many people die in those," Barker said. "Maybe that's what we want as a country, but we have to actually address it and understand it to really know what's going on. And so I just think that trying to say, well, was it coercive interrogation? I mean, maybe, probably, is my personal opinion, there was an element of that. Was that all of it? Certainly not. Is that what we should focus on? I don't think so."
"Manhunt," debuting on HBO in May, uses extensive interviews with CIA officers, military operatives and others involved in tracking bin Laden as he rose to power calling for jihad against the United States in the 1990s and in the war on terror after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Much of the story parallels events dramatized in "Zero Dark Thirty," starring Jessica Chastain as a CIA analyst named Maya who obsessively pursues bin Laden for years.
Barker and ex-CIA agents interviewed for "Manhunt" said "Zero Dark Thirty" correctly depicts that women in the CIA were at the heart of the bin Laden chase. But it still is a Hollywood distillation made to entertain wide audiences, they said.
"It is entertaining, especially the part about the SEAL raid," said Nada Bakos, who worked as a CIA analyst and later a targeting officer focusing on Iraq. "I understand they have to condense things down to different characters, but Maya's definitely a compilation of a lot of different people who worked at the agency and worked on this over the years."