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Zero Dark Birthday, 2014. Single-channel video, color, sound. 10:34 minutes.


Zero Dark Birthday is an essay film based on Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 historical thriller Zero Dark Thirty. Taking the final image of the film as a starting point, Zero Dark Birthday draws connections between depression, camouflage, surveillance and filmic identification. In the search for Osama Bin Laden, the CIA employs a variety of tactics to locate their target. In Zero Dark Birthday these tactics are analogous to a depressed psychological state, one that is characterized by a fluctuation between absolute certainty and total doubt.


Writing, animation and editing by Maura Brewer.
Score and sound design by Michael Webster, narration by Leah Dutchin.
Animation, research and writing assistance by Ariel McCleese.
Made with support from Civic Center Studios.
Thanks to Adam Novy, Samira Yamin and Pete Galindo.


Zero Dark Birthday adapts appropriated image, sound, and music from the film Zero Dark Thirty, by Kathryn Bigelow (2012), and text from Mary Kelly’s essay “Miming the Master,” in Imaging Desire (MIT Press, 1998): “The first tactic of camouflage is to become invisible, not unseen, but seen to be the same,” (209). Additional imagery from The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty (1973). Texts on depression appropriated in part from www.mayoclinic.org and www.clinical-depression.co.uk