Plight of Syrians competes for Oscar

Plight of Syrians competes for Oscar
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Plight of Syrians competes for Oscar

This year’s Academy Awards Oscar presentation of Hollywood Film Oscars includes only two submissions addressing Arab World issues, one on the plight of Syrian refugees and the terrorist war in Aleppo, Syria, and the other a historical drama set during the Algerian civil war of the 1990s. 

By Ray Hanania

Once again the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences will hold its annual Oscar Awards ceremony to recognize the best in Hollywood films, movies and documentaries.

Unfortunately, the number of films depicting the Arab World, Arab culture and the Middle East is limited to only two films that are in competition. It’s a tragedy because the world of Hollywood movies directly impacts how the world views issues and cultures. Not enough films are produced by the Arab World in English to compete, and the AMPAS

The 89th Annual Oscars celebration will be broadcast live on television on Sunday Feb. 26, 2017 with the ceremonies beginning at 8:30 pm Eastern.

The Academy was founded in 1927 and has been nominating and selecting the “best” in many categories of movie production each year since 1929.



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Every year, films made in the Arab World are discriminated against by the judges of the Academy, mainly anti-Arab American journalists whose industry promotes and fuels racism against Arabs and Muslims and anyone who criticizes Israel.

Promotional picture from the film "Watani: My Homeland" nominated for an Oscar in 2017

Promotional picture from the film “Watani: My Homeland” nominated for an Oscar in 2017

Israel is often given the benefit of the doubt for films it produces to help Israel in the eyes of the West, even though many of the films are plagued by bias and racism.

Two films representing conflicts in Syria and Algeria have been nominated. Here is an overview:

In the category of “Documentary (Short Subject)” the film “Watani: My Homeland” by Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis has been nominated.

Summary: Four young children live with their mother and father, a Free Syrian Commander, in a warzone in Aleppo, Syria. After their father is captured by ISIS, the children flee with their mother to Goslar, Germany, in a years-long journey that will test them all as they try to find a safe home in a foreign country.

Also nominated in the Category of “Short Film (Live Action)” is “Ennemis Interieurs” by Sélim Azzazi, his first nomination.

Summary: In the 1990s, as the Algerian civil war rages and terrorists infiltrate France, a French police officer of Algerian descent conducts a rancorous interview with a French-born Algerian man seeking naturalization.

This is the third Academy Award nomination for Iran. Previous nominations were “A Separation (2011) Winner in the Category of Foreign Language Film, and Children of Heaven (1998), nominated in the Category of Foreign Language Film.

Many films made in the United States use the issue of Arabs and the Middle East as a backdrop for their racist portrayals and political spin.

One politically driven film addresses the U.S. military intervention in Libya called “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” by Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth.

“13 Hours” is nominated in the Category of “Sound Mixing”. This is Russell’s 17th nomination, the eleventh Academy Award nomination for Gary Summers, the fourth Academy Award nomination for Jeffrey J. Haboush, and the second Academy Award nomination for Mac Ruth.

Summary: After the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the port city of Benghazi has become a warzone, with ex-military contractors working for the CIA tasked with protecting American diplomats. On the night of September 11, 2012, militants attack the U.S. diplomatic compound, resulting in a fierce fight and the deaths of four Americans.

Five films have been nominated under the category of “Foreign Language Film,” but none are from the Arab World or Middle East. However, one of the five is in Farsi representing Iran, “The Salesman,” directed by Asghar Farhadi. The other four films in this category are from Germany, Sweden, Australia and Denmark.

Summary: After Iranian couple Emad and Rana are forced to move to a new apartment, their life together is thrown into turmoil by an act of violence. They decide not to report the incident, and Rana’s emotional withdrawal becomes more than Emad can bear. He begins his own investigation and is overcome by an increasing need for revenge.

Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, star of the Oscar-nominated “The Salesman,” according to the news media, has declared that she is boycotting this year’s Oscar ceremonies in protest of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Trump has demanded that immigrants to the United States be more securely vetted for terrorists, and criminals. Iran has been accused of being a sponsor of terrorism.

The nominations of movies in the Category of “Best Picture” are “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell of High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “Moonlight.”

Nominations in the category for “Best Actor” are Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic),  and Denzel Washington (Fences). Nominations for “Best Actress” are Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins).

For a complete list of all the film nominations, click here.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist, feature writer and author. He covered Chicago City Hall  from 1976 through 1992. Permission is granted to republish column in its entirety with full attribution. Email him at with comments. Hanania writes on Middle East issues for and on mainstream issues for His columns also appear at

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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, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, 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, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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