By Sonya Rehman
A recently released film called ‘The Kingdom’ – starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner – seems to be Hollywood’s latest addition to its ever-increasing number of ‘war on terror’ (yawn) action flicks.
Basing itself around the terrorist bombings that took place in Riyadh (in 2003 – where over thirty people were killed with more than a hundred wounded), and the bombing of a housing compound (‘Khobar housing complex’) in Saudi Arabia in the summer of ’96, ‘The Kingdom’ comes across as thoroughly one-dimensional.
This is because, (as one movie critic puts it): “What’s really off-putting is that the Americans come across as constantly joking, relaxed, but at the same time totally competent people. It’s the old ‘cowboy’-image Hollywood has always tried to convey in its war movies from the 80’s that should really have been left behind by now.”
And that’s just it – Hollywood films (and TV shows) about terrorism and al-Qaeda activities (which were churned out in fast succession post 9/11), depict characters/storylines that are painfully black and white…where the suave, white guys (good cops) battle it out with bronze-skinned, robe-wearing, suicide bombing, bad cops! Geez Louise. Remember ‘300’, the flick adapted from Frank Miller’s novel?
With righteous Spartans on one hand, and the monstrous Persians on the other, ‘300’ was a flat, lame and biased movie – spurring great debate from movie critics the world over, and condemned by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in particular, who labeled the flick as a gross act of psychological warfare by Hollywood.
And then there was Angelina Jolie’s ‘A Mighty Heart’ – a film about a real-life event which led to the American journalist, Daniel Pearl’s beheading in Karachi by the al-Qaeda.
Having interviewed Asra Nomani (Pearl’s colleague) who put up Pearl and his wife, Marianne, at her house in Karachi during the journalist’s investigation, Nomani herself admitted in an article (which was widely published) and in an interview to Instep, that the Michael Winterbottom film was prejudiced in its portrayal of Karachi and its people. One-sided, ‘A Mighty Heart’ the film was, and that is what was unfair – which mainly spiked Nomani’s fury.
So for Hollywood, it’s either little green men in mammoth-sized starships blowing up the White House or New York, and cagey, blood-thirsty Arabs, just waiting to slit a white man’s throat!
The portrayal (by Hollywood) of the vast Muslim peninsula – and roping each man, woman and child (that exists within it) as barbaric hooligans, makes only one thing evident: that Hollywood has, is, and always will be an instrumental player in the game of international politics – via counter-terrorist, agenda-based political movies.
Why doesn’t Hollywood ever make films about the people that it’s so quick to bash, attack and victimize?
How about a big-budget movie on the journey and life of a young boy and what stirs him to ‘want’ to strap bombs onto his chest? Or, better still, how about Hollywood giving both sides of the picture – in an unbiased tone and a three-dimensional light in its ‘war on terror’ films? Now that would be something.
Films such as ‘Syriana’- which portray multi-layered American (anything for a dollar) politics – should be encouraged. Because Hollywood’s incessant Arab bashing has frankly gotten far too boring, predictable, and upsetting.
Hollywood’s undying love for, and marriage with; aliens and Arabs, terrorism (with underlying tones of xenophobia), truly is a relationship which should best be called quits. It’s about time.
Instep Today, The News