The film, which is hotly-tipped to land a handful of Oscar nominations when the shortlist is announced on Thursday (10Jan13), is based on the real life hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and has come under fire from several high-profile politicians, including former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, for scenes that suggest information leading to bin Laden's capture was obtained using methods of mental and physical torture.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have both repeatedly defended the depiction of waterboarding in the shoot, with the filmmaker recently stating: "The point was to immerse the audience in this landscape, not to pretend to debate policy. Was it difficult to shoot? Yes. Do I wish (torture) was not part of that history? Yes, but it was."
However, their comments did not appease protesters affiliated with Amnesty International and they expressed their concern by targetting the Washington, D.C. premiere of the movie.
Standing side-by-side, the demonstrators held up signs reading, "Torture is Wrong" and "Torture is Immoral", while another banner called Zero Dark Thirty a "Pentagon-sanctioned movie".
Bigelow refused to let the activists' actions ruin her night and instead remained defiant as she addressed the crowd inside the Newseum theatre, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
She said, "(We) had no agenda in making this film and were not trying to generate controversy. Quite the contrary... I thankfully want to say that I'm standing in a room of people who understand that depiction is not endorsement."