Making a masterpiece: An Oscar-winning film with NM ties, 'The Hurt Locker' selected for preservation - Albuquerque Journal

Making a masterpiece: An Oscar-winning film with NM ties, ‘The Hurt Locker’ selected for preservation

A scene from the Oscar-winning film, “The Hurt Locker.” The film is one of 25 selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. (Courtesy of Lionsgate)

As filming was underway in Amman, Jordan, Tony Mark knew there was something special about “The Hurt Locker.”

bright spot“No one thought that we were making a masterpiece,” Mark said. “It was a really good script. When (director) Kathryn (Bigelow) made her first cut, you knew right then, it wasn’t your average movie.”

Mark, a Santa Fe resident, served as an executive producer and unit production manager for the Oscar-winning 2008 film.

The film, set during the Iraq War, tells the story of a sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.

Executive Producer Tony Mark on the set of “The Hurt Locker” in 2007.(Courtesy of Tony Mark )

The film garnered nine Academy Award nominations and picked up six Oscars – including best picture, original screenplay and best director.

Bigelow became the first woman to win for best director – and remains the only woman to earn an Oscar for directing.

On Dec. 14, “The Hurt Locker” was one of the 25 films selected for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Selected because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage, the 2020 titles include blockbusters, musicals, silent films, documentaries and diverse stories transferred from books to screen. They bring the number of films selected for preservation in the registry to 800, a fraction of the 1.3 million films in the library’s collections.

This year’s selections include a record number of films directed by women and filmmakers of color, including nine directed by women and seven by people of color.

Suhail Dabbach, an Iraqi actor, is shown here in the movie, “The Hurt Locker.” Dabbach, a refugee, recently moved from Albuquerque to Utah.(Courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The National Film Registry is an important record of American history, culture and creativity, captured through one of the great American artforms, our cinematic experience,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “With the inclusion of diverse filmmakers, we are not trying to set records but rather to set the record straight by spotlighting the astonishing contributions women and people of color have made to American cinema, despite facing often-overwhelming hurdles.”

Mark says the film is a testament to what everyone accomplished.

Director Kathryn Bigelow on the set of “The Hurt Locker.”(Courtesy of Lionsgate)

During filming, there were people from 15 countries that came together to make the film.

“I really believe without the efforts of every single one of those people, I don’t know if the film would have achieved what it did,” Mark says. “There were people that gave themselves completely to the story and script. It’s always something I think about.”

Upon learning about the Library of Congress distinction, Marks says it’s “really something special.”

“Kathryn should get every credit in the world for having that vision,” he says of the director. “Years later, the film does still stand up. I’ve made a lot of movies and some of them hold up and some of them don’t. I can watch this film again and I look at it with new perspective.”

Suhail Dabbach, a former Albuquerque resident, had one of the most powerful scenes in the film as he played a man in a black suit who pleaded for his life.

“There’s no dialog,” Dabbach says. “It was supposed to be a short moment for me. It helped bring me into the spotlight.”

Dabbach found out about the project while living in Jordan.

“They told me there was a movie about an American Army,” he says. “Being part of this changed my life.”

Soon after, Dabbach moved his family to Albuquerque, where he lived until a few months ago. He now lives in Utah.

Dabbach had numerous parts in various New Mexico-filmed productions. He credits “The Hurt Locker” for opening up more avenues in acting.

He is currently starring in the Netflix film, “Mosul,” where he is the lead actor.

“The film is in Arabic and it’s been popular for weeks,” he says. “To now have ‘The Hurt Locker’ be preserved means a lot to me. This is great to know and I’m excited about the future.”

Former Albuquerque resident Suhail Dabbach as Major Jasem in “Mosul.” (Jose Haro/Netflix)

Dabbach hopes to move back to Albuquerque to be closer to family.

The 2020 film selections span nearly a century of filmmaking – from the silent era to the most recent film added to the registry, the PBS documentary “Freedom Riders” from 2010 where filmmaker Stanley Nelson captures the inspiring story of 1961 when 400 Black and white Americans risked their lives challenging Jim Crow segregation by traveling together on buses and trains through the Deep South.

The record-setting nine films directed by women on the 2020 list include the 1913 silent film “Suspense” co-directed by Lois Weber; the 1918 silent film “Bread” about a woman struggling to pull herself out of poverty, directed by Ida May Park; the 1929 film “With Car and Camera Around the World” by Aloha Wanderwell; the 1950 film “Outrage” about the once verboten topic of sexual assault directed by Ida Lupino; one of the first feature films directed by a Black woman with Kathleen Collins’ “Losing Ground” from 1982; groundbreaking director Julie Dash’s student film “Illusions” confronting Hollywood racism from 1982; the 1994 film “The Devil Never Sleeps” by Lourdes Portillo; the 2006 film “Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege” co-directed by Joan Lander; and the atypical war film “The Hurt Locker” about soldiers in Baghdad dismantling unexploded bombs, directed by Kathryn Bigelow in 2008.

“My desire in making ‘The Hurt Locker’ was to honor those in uniform serving in dangerous posts abroad, so I have been gratified by the resonance the film has had over the last 10 years,” said Bigelow in a statement. “For it to be selected by the National Film Registry is both humbling and thrilling.”

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names to the National Film Registry 25 motion pictures that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. More information about the National Film Registry can be found at

The librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and a cadre of library specialists. Also considered were more than 5,500 titles nominated by the public. Nominations for next year will be accepted through the fall at

Source: The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress


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