Zero Dark Thirty is set largely in Pakistan – but the citizens of that country largely aren’t able to see how their homeland is depicted in it, unless they can track down a pirated copy of the Oscar-nominated film.
EW has confirmed that Zero Dark Thirty has not been approved by Pakistan’s board of censors, and therefore has not been shown in any of the nation’s few movie theaters that play English-language films. But that’s not the whole story: according to the Associated Press, no distributor has even applied for permission to show Zero Dark Thirty in Pakistan. This means that while the movie hasn’t been officially censured by Pakistan’s government, it is unofficially unsanctioned there. DVDs of the film were being sold recently in the capital city of Islamabad – but the AP writes that rumors about a ban have driven at least two stores to stop carrying Zero Dark Thirty, while another has taken to selling it only under the counter.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that nobody in Pakistan has seen Kathryn Bigelow’s film. In January, Pakistani journalist Nadeem Paracha even dressed down Zero Dark Thirty on the website of the English-language newspaper Dawn, criticizing it for showing Pakistanis speaking Arabic rather than Urdu or other regional languages. He also objected to the film’s depiction of Pakistani men “go[ing] around wearing 17th and 18th century headgear in markets.”
And just as the film itself has drawn criticism from some Pakistanis, others are skeptical about whether the word “ban” should be used at all when discussing the movie’s status there. “This whole ‘ban, ban, ban’ bit is a scam. It’s an assumption and just pure hype that’s perfectly timed for Oscar season,” Pakistani film distributor Nadeem Mandviwalla told NBC News. “There are tons of movies that don’t make it here. It’s not a political decision the army or the ISI [Pakistan’s intelligence agency] makes for us. We, as businessmen, make it. And it was bad business modeling to bring this movie to Pakistan.”
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