Friday, February 15, 2013

That Muslim CIA Guy in Zero Dark Thirty

On the last MovieFilm show, while in the midst of yet another discussion on controversy-magnet Zero Dark Thirty, I mentioned the inclusion of a WASP-y CIA muckety-muck who the audience is first introduced to while he's kneeling on a prayer rug on the floor of his Langley office, performing the traditional Muslim prayer. His subordinate waits for him to finish, then greets him with "As-salaam-wa-alaikum," to which the higher-up responds with "Walaikum-as-salaam," and then the plot's business about tracking down Bin Laden carries on. Never again is the CIA guy's "Muslim-ness" addressed. Naturally, I couldn't help but be fascinated not only by this character, but by the filmmakers' decision to include him as a part of their narrative tapestry. As it turns out, this wasn't some mere fictional token that screenwriter Mark Boal spun out of a whole cloth. Rather, he's actually based on a real guy who really works at the CIA, and he has quite the fascinating story behind him, as this Washington Post piece from last year shows.

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