Trending: nonfiction on the rise in films

Jaclyn Farrell February 27, 2013 0

A media trend of realistic nonfiction films has become more and more noticable. This year’s Academy Awards have three nonfiction films competing for Best Picture,  “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo” and “Lincoln.” Movie critics worry about the effects the fictional aspects of these films will have on teenagers and college students. Many adolescents, myself included, went to see these films, not only because the storyline looked interesting, but also to get a better understanding or simply to clarify the featured issues.
After seeing Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” in 2008, I was eager to see “Zero Dark Thirty” — not only because I love Jessica Chastain and Kathryn Bigelow’s work, but because I also wanted to clear up some of my many confusions about the war on terror, and I don’t think I was alone in this idea. The Internet Movie Database describes “Zero Dark Thirty” as, “a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.” The biggest problem with this synopsis is the use of the word “chronicle.” According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of chronicle is: “a factual written account of important or historical events.” The Huffington Post exposed the unrealistic aspects of this supposedly nonfiction film, and they are quite concerning.
A group of senators has come forward saying the film misleads audiences by suggesting that torture was used by the CIA to obtain information about bin Laden.  Some wonder about whether or not Jessica Chastain’s character’s real-life counterpart even existed. The film’s screenwriter, Mark Boal, commented, “There’s a responsibility, I believe, to the audience … to tell a good story, and there’s a responsibility to be respectful of the material.”
“Argo,” the year’s Golden Globe Best Picture winner, follows the story of the 1980 CIA-Canadian operation to rescue six fugitive American diplomats from revolutionary Iran. This film is the least worrisome of the three. However, former officials in Britain and New Zealand complained that involvement was belittled by the film. Former Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor defended the film and said, “When I seek a history lesson, I do not go to a movie theater. ”
Although “Lincoln” was nominated for more Oscars than “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Argo,” it is not completely factual.  Director Steven Spielberg and playwright Tony Kushner took it upon themselves to depict the 1865 vote on the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, as well as the surrounding events during Lincoln’s presidency. After a complaint from a Connecticut congressman, Kushner admitted to changing the votes of two Connecticut congressmen in the film. The film depicted two of the congressmen voting against the amendment when, actually, all four men voted in favor. The playwright also responded by stating he had, “adhered to time-honored and completely legitimate standards for the creation of historical drama, which is what ‘Lincoln’ is. I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters.” Spielberg was even requested to adjust the DVD version because New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was worried students would think wrongly of Connecticut.
Teenagers and college students going to see these films to attain a clarification of these historical events must know the truth. Dr. Wayne Selcher, professor of international studies Emeritus said, “This style may leave many viewers with a distorted ‘take’ on that portion of history. Rather than understand the events in the context of the values and social forces of that past time, we may see them depicted very much in terms of our own current social values, such as political correctness and need for ‘heroes’ and ‘bad guys.’
Before going to see ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ or ‘Lincoln,’ I was unaware of these delusions. I wish the films were presented in a better, more accurate way. Maybe the films should have been more clear, stating ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘true story.’”

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