The Clash of Motion Picture

a Concise Look Back

24 août 2007
  • 11:40 -11:40

Talk and short video screening by Khaled D. Ramadan.
Planet of the Arabs by video maker Jacki Salloum.

khaled-ramadan-1.jpg - Khaled Ramadan. Still from his video ' '

Hollywood's relentless stereotyping of the Arabs. An example of this can be found in the book Reel Bad Arabs by Dr. Jack Shaheen. The book studies the depiction of Arab and Muslim characters in American films in the period from 1896 till 2000. Out of 1.000 films with Arab and Muslim characters, only 12 of the depictions were positive, while the remaining 900 or so were negative. The Arab film industry did not make similar negative depictions of Westerners, however, since the emergence of the Arab film industry in the 1930s, 17 films have given rise to diplomatic controversies with the Western world.

Professor of Mass Communications at Southern Illinois University, and former CBS News consultant on Middle East affairs, Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, has argued that if Arabs want to change the general Western view of the Arab world and polish their image, they have to go through the two centers of powers: The one in Washington and the one in Hollywood. In other words, they have to make use of both entertainment and politics, because they go hand-in-hand. He also called on Arab filmmakers to produce films that could help conveying the clear and true image of the Arab world to the West, especially to the United States. (3)

The first video maker to answer Dr. Shaheen's call directly was Jacqueline Salloum in her video Planet of the Arabs. She was one of the first video makers to make the American film industry look bad. Planet of the Arabs takes a critical look at Hollywood's relentless dehumanization of Arabs, inspired by the book Reel Bad Arabs by Dr. Shaheen. In an outstanding audiovisual style, Salloum presents the other face of representation. She unveils the American/Arab claim about friendship and investigates what that friendship is all about. The 9 minutes video consists of readymade footage from over 30 films showing how Arab and Muslim characters are depicted in the American film industry. Intensive film flashes with Michael J. Fox, Danny DeVito, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger show how they are all mocking and conquering the Arab individuality and identity.