Film ridicules US portrayal of Arabs

Sayyid Badriya does not act very well, but then he never really had to – Hollywood has only ever wanted him to look crazy like a terrorist.

Immigration is more likely to film Arabs than Hollywood
Immigration is more likely to film Arabs than Hollywood

Now the Egyptian actor who played the bad guy in films such as The Insider, Three Kings, and Executive Decision has got his own back with comic drama T for Terrorist.


Badriya plays a bit-part actor who loses his temper at a director’s demands for more and more wild-eyed looks in a terrorism scene. So he holds up the set at gunpoint and forces the pasty-faced director to play the gun-toting lunatic.


But it turns out to be a dream and the short film ends as a resigned Badriya resumes work with: “On your knees, you stinking Americans! In the name of Allah I will kill you all!”


The $30,000 film, which has toured the US festival circuit over the past year, was shown this weekend at the Dubai International Film Festival as part of movies focusing on East-West relations.


No Arabic story


Badriya, a large man with bulging eyes and a beard, saw the film as evidence that Hollywood was beginning to question the stereotypes of Arabs it often projects.


“There is a movement in Hollywood to allow us to tell our own story, because there is no Arabic story on the screen,” he told a seminar, adding that the actors, including well-known Arab-American Tony Shalhub, had taken part for free.


“There is no Arabic story on the screen. The Americans and Europeans tell our story, and if Americans and Europeans tell our story, it’s not going to come up smelling of falafel.”


Arabs and Muslims have complained of ill-feeling towards them in the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Anti-US sentiment is strong in the region because of the Iraq war and perceived US support for Israel against the Palestinians.


Centre stage at the festival was taken by films about the Arab world but made outside the region, usually by non-Arabs.


Promotion weakness


Leading Egyptian actor Husain Fahmy said the ailing Arab cinema industry had become incapable of promoting its own self-image to the rest of the world.


“Eventually all we’ll have left is American and Indian cinema because they alone have the power to distribute films in their theatres. Producers see big returns,” he said, adding that in the Arab world “we’re all losing money in movies”.


Hollywood actors who made the journey to the glitzy Gulf city of Dubai said the Arab world was still low down on Hollywood‘s priority list for re-evaluation.


“Middle East filmmakers are not the only people that have a problem getting their films across,” The Grudge star Sarah Michelle Geller said.


“To this day, a woman cannot open an action movie like Tom Cruise can or a comedy movie like Jim Carrey can.”


But T for Terrorist director Hisham Isawi saw hope in Hollywood: “They don’t hate Arabs, that’s not true really. They don’t know us, so it’s more about ignorance than hate.”  

Source: Reuters

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