Hollywood Movies, One Front We Haven't Conquered Yet
As a child growing up in the hostile, anti-Arab world of America, I remember all the movies with Middle East themes always portrayed Arabs as the villains and Israelis as the heroes.
Nearly every terrorist in a film featuring the Middle East looked like one of my relatives, not only to me but also to my American friends.
In the half decade since, there have been some changes in Hollywood films, and a few movies that have tried to portray Arabs in a more accurate and positive light.
But there haven't been enough of them. I am still waiting for some bright young writer to pen the Arab version of the famous — or infamous — Leon Uris novel which was made into the movie "Exodus," which featured Jewish American actor Paul Newman in the lead role.
This year we again see a few efforts on film try to break that longstanding stereotype at the Academy Awards where films compete for an "Oscar." The Oscars are significant. Winning pushes the film to a higher level of exposure, growing their audiences.
Just being nominated for an Academy Award is enough to give a movie the audience lift to move it from obscurity to success. And I define success not just on how much money a film generates but rather on how many people actually watch it.
"Exodus" was a compelling film that told a very human story. The poor Israelis, victims of the Nazi Holocaust, were seeking a refuge from the oppression of anti-Semitism and hatred. They were portrayed as just fighters.
They faced the sinister enemy, the Arabs, who were viciously portrayed in horrible stereotypical caricatures.
"Exodus" singlehandedly solidified how American and Western audiences would define the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israelis were "good" and the Arabs were "bad." It's an inaccurate imbalance that remains today, many generations later.
This year, two films compete for the Oscar in the documentary category. They are "5 Broken Cameras," a movie filmed and produced by a Palestinian farmer from the village of Bil'in, Emad Burnat.
Burnat bought a camera to record the birth of his son in 2005, but he soon realized the power of film and he began to record Israeli oppression.
Soon he recorded the violence against him, his family and his village neighbors by Israel's military and settler terrorists seeking to ethnically and religiously cleanse the West Bank lands of Palestinians, Christians and Muslims.
I haven't seen the film yet, but I am hoping that I will be able to purchase a copy to watch the compelling real-life story.
I don't expect "5 Broken Cameras" to open in American movie theaters the way "Exodus" did back in the 1960s. I know I will have to watch it on DVD, maybe even Blu-ray.
But I do hope it wins an Oscar because the Oscar will propel the film to new heights of publicity and expose it's story to people in America and the West who are so uneducated about the reality of what Israel does every day to Palestinians.
Another film is in competition with "5 Broken Cameras" in the documentary category. It is called "The Gatekeepers," based on interviews with former leaders of Israel's mukhabarat, the Shin Bet.
The Shin Bet is much like the Shah's former Savak. Brutal and vicious secret police that secretly arrest, detain, brutalize and even kill Palestinian dissidents who have tried to challenge Israel's injustices over the years.
From what I have read, the former Shin Bet leaders find their conscience after having left decision-making positions. Isn't that always the case with Israelis? When they have the power to do right, they don't. When they leave and are forced to look back at their crimes, second thoughts seem to eat away at whatever is left of their morality.
That sounds a good documentary, too.
Sadly, documentaries that tell the truth of events are not as popular as the fictionalized stories like "Exodus" that take grains of some truths and weave them with yarns of lies to concoct false stereotypes and myths that tend to last far longer.
Still, it's a beginning. But after more than six decades of seeing "starts" actually start, deep down I long for the time when someone in the Arab world will recognize the true power of communications as a weapon of truth that is far mightier than the scimitar in changing the minds of enemies and educating the uneducated masses.
Maybe someone should make a movie about it all.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM