HANANIA: “The Kingdom” Movie Review, finally a good film, For Immediate Release, 10-01-07

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Finally a decent American Hollywood movie on Arabs

By Ray Hanania — There have been so many biased movies made in Hollywood about Arabs and the Middle East, I went to see “The Kingdom” this week ready to mine for even a glimmer of hope that pattern might change. I left the movie theater feeling like I had struck gold. “The Kingdom,” produced by Peter Berg, is a great movie, and for that reason, I know it is going to take a beating in the American media. It already has.

“The Kingdom” was both factual and offered a realistic portrayal of how most Arabs and Muslims also oppose terrorism. But most importantly, it is not like the other films on terrorism, and instead the real driving charater is an Arab and Muslim who is as determined as the Americans to fight terrorism.

The film stars Jamie Foxx as a lead FBI agent who goes to Saudi Arabia after a brutal terrorist bombing takes place.

The bombing is especially vicious and sinister. First, a group of terrorist drive through an American oil camp gunning down American children and mothers at a softball game and barbecue. And then, an Arab who presumably was a friend to the Americans, stands up after the shooting rampage and declares “Allah uh Akbar” and blows himself up taking another dozen or so innocent children and mothers. Followed by a huge car bomb as investigators and American agents are sifting through the body parts for evidence, killing more than 100 people.

At that point in the film, some Americans in the theater hissed and yelled at the Arabs.

The saving grace of the film is that “The Kingdom” isn’t about a terrorist attack. It is about an Arab Muslim military officer, played by Ashraf Barhoum (Barhom) (Col. Al-Ghazi), who is determined to fight the terrorists as much or more so than the Americans.

And that is why many American media pundits have trashed the film. The idea that terrorism is not an ethnic product but really a product of bad politics is so disturbing to the American people because it undermines all that they have taught themselves.

Worse, in the introduction of the film, it advances the deep dark truth that Americans keep hidden in their Pandora’s Box. That Osama Bin Laden went to the Saudis and asked if he could lead his Mujahaddin warriors who defeated the Russians in Afghanistan to defeat Saddam Hussein in Kuwait.

Oh my gosh. Do you mean to tell me that Bin Laden hated Saddam Hussein? So why did we invade Iraq?

A good question Americans are not permitted to ask because it exposes the immorality of the Iraq War. Even though everyone with any knowledge knows that to be true.

And Americans hate truth that does not portray them in a good light.

As an Arab American, I don’t object to the portrayal of Arabs as terrorists, just as I don’t object to the portrayal of White American Men as serial killers.

What I object to is the fact there is never a counterbalance of a significant, positive image of an Arab in film. An Arab character who was a hero and a theme in which at least some of the facts of the Middle East could be presented in a balanced way so the story could sink or swim on its own.

But if Americans wanted reality, all they have to do is turn on the evening news to see how dismal American foreign policy is playing throughout the world.

So American prefer the fantasy to the reality in Hollywood. If a Navy Seal operation to free a dozen American hostages fails in real life, we write a Hollywood script showing a teenage all-American boy fly a fighter jet in a dog fight with a dozen or more fighter jets in some fictional Arabian country, and win. Or, we cast the ogres of anti-Arab characters, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger leap into a cesspool of Arab terrorists with one arm tied behind their backs killing scores of villainous Arabs without as much incurring a serious wound themselves.

Can’t Hollywood script writers still convey the conflicts and turmoil of the world without pandering to racism and stereotypes?

Edward Zwick tried it in “The Siege,” the 1998 film starring Denzel Washington as the lead FBI investigator of a series of terrorist acts in New York City. But Zwick failed. The Siege had a somewhat sympathetic story line about the unfairness of profiling Arabs trying to stop terrorism. But, Zwick pandered to the political pressures miscasting all the terrorists as Palestinian, the all time bad guys thanks to Israeli propaganda.

Palestinians have a conflict with Israel, not with America. Granted, Israel is America’s spoon-fed pampered child and Middle East bully, but Palestinians have not targeted American society for major terrorism in a fight which has been going on for nearly a Century, thanks in a large part to American support of Israel’s government’s extremist policies.

Zwick tossed in the gratuitous below-the-belt kick. He cast Lebanese American actor Tony Shalhoub as a positive Arab character, a Muslim FBI agent whose son is rounded up along with the rest of the Arab scum. But then Zwick has Shalhoub slam in the face a Palestinian suspect taken into custody, later excusing his lack of professional by promising to tell Washington what the Palestinians did to “his country,” meaning Lebanon.

It exposed Zwick’s lack of knowledge, and bias against Palestinians.

I saw “The Kingdom” in a popular theater outside of Chicago. Only about 25 people filled the 300 plus seats on a Saturday.

In reality, Americans are just not ready for the truth.

They prefer to waddle in their own ignorance, because only ignorance can explain American foreign policy in the Palestine-Israel conflict, the invasion of Iraq and our failure, so far, to capture of kill the real terrorist, Bin Laden.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Copyright Arab Writers Group, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)


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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania