ISLAMABAD — Pakistan stars in “Zero Dark Thirty,” from early scenes at a detention site to the dramatic closing minutes as Navy SEALs assault the hideout of Osama bin Laden. But the Academy Award-nominated film about hunt for the al-Qaida leader has sparked a controversy here about its portrayal of the country, and it will likely not be shown on the local big screen anytime soon.
Partly, the film taps into national discomfort that bin Laden was found to be living for years near Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point, and anger over the U.S. decision to enter its airspace and raid the compound without giving advance notice. Doubts about whether bin Laden was really hiding out for years in the city of Abbottabad are also common across Pakistan, a country where conspiracy theories often have more weight than fact.
But Pakistanis who have seen the film on DVD or Internet downloads are also making much of what they say are factual errors.
Nadeem F. Paracha, a columnist for the English-language newspaper Dawn and a cultural critic in Pakistan, noted that in some scenes characters speak Arabic, whereas Pakistanis speak Urdu, Pashto or one of the tens of other languages.
In other scenes, protesters get right up to the U.S. Embassy gates when in reality the embassy is situated in an enclosed diplomatic enclave that demonstrators can’t access. Some scenes that were supposed to show the frontier city of Peshawar look more like 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.”