Are Arabs Depicted in Hollywood Films?
Reprinted from a Media Education Foundation press release
can move you or inform you. Great documentaries can change
your entire point of view. Reel
Bad Arabs falls into the latter category,” says
film critic Faizan Rashid of a new documentary produced by
the Media Education Foundation (MEF), a Northampton nonprofit
organization that produces and distributes documentary films
and other educational resources to inspire critical reflection
on the social, political and cultural impact of American
Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People examines
and challenges representations of Arabs in Hollywood films
from the early days of cinematic history to the present.
The film, which was featured at the 2006 Dubai Film Festival,
will have its Northampton premiere on Wednesday, April 25,
at 7:30 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. The film
screening will be preceded by a reception at 6:30 p.m., and
will be followed by a question-and-answer session with author
Jack Shaheen, whose best-selling book of the same title is
the basis for the film.
“This film is especially important right now,” says
MEF Executive Director Sut Jhally, “as war and conflict
continue to be a daily reality in the Middle East and fears
of terrorism rise in the West. Especially in the precarious
time, it’s important that U.S. citizens reflect critically
on the consequences of media narratives that tell us that
Arabs are predominantly villains and buffoons.”
The film is based on the best-selling book of the same title
by Dr. Jack Shaheen (published by Interlink Books, a
Northampton-based book publisher specializing in titles on
the Middle East). The documentary, like the book, isolates
and examines America’s most persistent Arab caricatures,
from oversexed Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to
sinister sheikhs and blood-thirsty terrorists, providing
striking insights into the origin of these images, their
disturbing similarities to anti-Semitic and other racist
and ethnocentrist stereotypes, and their resurgence and political
resonance during key moments of crisis in U.S. history.
The screening is co-sponsored by the Smith College Middle
East Studies Committee, the Smith College Lecture Committee,
and the Media Education Foundation.