American Sniper: Controversy grows as vandals spray 'murder' in red paint across billboard

Polarising film has split liberal and conservative audiences in US 

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The Independent Culture

A billboard for the controversial US blockbuster American Sniper has been vandalised with the word ‘murder’ sprayed across it, as the debate over whether the film pays tribute to a heroic veteran or glorifies war continues to rage.

The graffiti, sprayed in red paint, appeared on a billboard in west Los Angeles overnight. The next day the advert had disappeared and fresh graffiti had appeared below the billboard, ABC News reports.

Clint Eastwood’s film follows the story of Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal who with 160 confirmed kills in the Iraq war is considered to be the most lethal sniper in UN military history. Kyle was killed at a shooting range in 2013 by a veteran he was helping adjust to life at home.

Chris Kyle was killed in 2013. A former US Marine is awaiting trial for the shooting

The film, based on Kyle’s memoirs, has been a huge commercial success, taking in $107 million (£71m) over four days.

Its record-breaking opening weekend has been widely attributed to the strong support of America’s conservative right and their appreciation of the film's patriotic themes. Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., said their embrace of the film had been "huge”.

"The audience watched this movie not as a war movie but as a movie about patriotism, a movie about a hero, a movie about family, a movie about serving our country," he told the Associated Press. "And it struck a chord right across the board."

However, others have dismissed the film as propaganda, accusing its director of glorying war.

AS-05952r.jpgWriting in the New Republic, American diplomat Dennis Jett wrote that single-mindedly treating Kyle as a patriot "allows Americans to ignore the consequences of invading a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, had nothing to do with 9/11, and had no meaningful ties to al-Qaeda."

American director and activist Michael Moore claimed snipers are “cowards”, while Seth Rogan, the director of The Interview, said the film reminded him of a faux Nazi propaganda film featured by Quentin Tarentino in his film Inglorious Basterds.

Sarah Palin has also weighed into the debate, retaliating on her Facebook page with: “Hollywood leftists: while caressing shiny plastic trophies you exchange among one another while spitting on the graves of freedom fighters who allow you to do what you do, just realize the rest of America knows you’re not fit to shine Chris Kyle’s combat boots.”

Eastwood has defended his film as apolitical, while actor Bradley Cooper, who played the role of Kyle, described it as more of a “character study”.

Debate surrounding the film has failed to deter award boards however and American Sniper has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.