BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
If "Zero Dark Thirty" wins big at the Oscars tonight, Bakersfield resident Cathie Ong-Herrera would like to hear an apology when the film's director, Kathryn Bigelow, gives her acceptance speech.
Ong-Herrera and her family say they are simply trying to protect the legacy, voice, image and heroism of Betty Ann Ong, a flight attendant -- and Ong-Herrera's sister -- who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Her family is upset, she said, because filmmakers used Betty Ann Ong's voice in an opening sequence of the film without their permission and without informing them. Ong's words were recorded on a call from American Airlines Flight 11 before it hit the World Trade Center.
According to The New York Times, which broke the story on Friday, the Ong family is demanding an apology at the Academy Awards ceremony for using the call without consent, should the film or any of its makers come up a winner.
The Ong family is also asking that the filmmakers donate to a charitable foundation that was set up in Ms. Ong's name, The Times reported. Further, they want Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is distributing "Zero Dark Thirty" in the United States, to include a credit for Betty Ann Ong and a statement on both its Web site and on home entertainment versions of the film making clear that the Ong family does not endorse torture, which is depicted in the film, an account of the search for Osama bin Laden.
"Our family is not seeking a monetary award," Ong-Herrera told The Californian.
The Ongs began trying to contact the filmmakers in mid-November after the family member of another Sept. 11 victim informed them that Betty Ann's voice was included in the production, Ong-Herrera said.
Imagine, she said, if members of the family had watched that movie and heard Betty Ann's voice, with no prior knowledge that filmmakers had used it?
"We're not seeking to help ourselves but we are doing it based on moral and ethical issues," she said.
Despite their attempts to communicate with the filmmakers, Ong-Herrera said their requests have not been addressed.
The film has been the target of criticism, including for suggesting torture led to the location and ultimately the death of bin Laden.
According to The Times, Mark Boal, the film's writer, responded on Friday to the family's concerns.
"As the 9/11 commission justly proclaimed, Betty Ong is without a doubt one of our national heroes," Boal told The Times in an email.
In a statement, Sony and the filmmakers noted that Boal and Bigelow have been in close contact with the families of victims since releasing the film, which was privately screened for many of them, The Times reported.
The statements did not say whether the filmmakers or Sony would comply with the requests for a donation and an apology and acknowledgment at the Academy Awards ceremony or elsewhere, according to The Times.
But Sony and Annapurna Pictures, which produced the film, have already contributed to the memorial and museum being built at ground zero, and the end of the movie includes a statement paying tribute to "the victims and the families of the 9/11 attacks," among others, The Times said.
Ong-Herrera said the filmmakers have the chance to right a terrible wrong. "We just want them to do the right thing,"she said.