Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty has received multiple Oscar nominations and grossed over $102 million at the worldwide box office, but the film has virtually been nonexistent in Parkistan.
Pakistan figures quite prominently in the film, starring Jessica Chastain, about the hunt of Al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden. The feature has been “unofficially” banned in Parkistan, according to NBC News. The Pakistani government’s censors have remained silent about the feature’s controversial depiction of the country because, technically, nobody in the country has ever seen the movie.
Pakistan’s exhibitors have not picked up the film from international distributors, though it has been viewed via bootleg DVDs and pirated downloads. “Though sharp in its production and direction and largely accurate in depicting the events that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden,” noted the Dawn newspaper in one of the kinder reviews of the film, “it went ballistic bad in depicting everyday life on the streets of Pakistan.”
The article’s author Nadeem Farooq Paracha noted that Zero Dark Thirty may have intended to embarrass Pakistan and its military, “or it might be simply a victim of sloppy research,” he said, according to NBC.
Only a handful of movie theaters in the country show English-language films and must be submitted for approval by censors, according to A.P.
A leading importer and distributor of foreign films in Pakistan, Jamshed Zafar, decided against taking on Zero Dark Thirty, believing the effort wouldn’t be worth it. “If you get into such controversy, you not only lose money but your reputation is also at stake,” he said.
Some of the few Pakistanis to have “unofficially” seen the movie noted some inconsistencies in the film’s depiction of the country. The Dawn newspaper noted that some characters speak Arabic, though Pakistanis speak Urdu or Pashto or other non-Arabic languages typically found there. Also in the movie, demonstrators were able to reach the gates of the American embassy in Islamabad, the capital, but in fact, the compound is in an enclosed diplomatic area that protesters would not be able to access. It was also noted that what was supposed to be the frontier city of Peshawar actually resembled 19th century Delhi in India.
“How can you make a Hollywood blockbuster, put in so much money and get simple things wrong?” Paracha asked. “Instead of the film being taken seriously, it became a joke among Pakistanis.”