Jon Hamm’s latest movie “Beirut” was released in theaters nationwide on April 13. The movie, set in 1982, tells the story of a former U.S. diplomat who finds himself back in Beirut ten years after his family was killed there. His new mission is to save a friend, who works for the CIA, after he is kidnapped by an Islamic terrorist organization.
In theory, and the fact that the movie was written by the same people behind The Bourne trilogy, it originally sounded like something that could be fun. Except, once again, an American Hollywood studio decides to whitewash the civil war of a city, and turn its entire struggles about the past and hardships of a white man, who is out of place among the savages he is forced to exist with.
- A Qandahar-esque city ravaged by war: ✔ Check.
- Oriental music with no clear location of origin: ✔ Check.
- English spoken like only Americans think terrorists speak English: ✔ Check.
- Silhouettes of Mosques in every city shot: ✔ Check.
- Brown kids running around with guns: ✔ Check.
- A terrorist Islamic organization that does not actually exist: ✔ Check.
The movie not only omits any Lebanese presence in it, but bends the timeline of the country to make it conform with exactly what Americans think of the city, and the political factors it faces. Suddenly, the Israelis are the knights in shining armor trying to protect Beirut from its own people, while white Americans roll in to save the day once more.
Those Arabs in the movie? Barbaric savages. Their cities and the homes where they live? Hellholes. Their entire lives? Reduced to feral kids running around cars with plastic guns.
Beirut was filmed in Morocco, with no Lebanese cast, included no Lebanese input, borrowed no Lebanese insight, but was named after the capital city of the country. The plot unravels like a propaganda movie designed to perpetuate the negative ideas that American audiences have about the culture.
Perception matters, and it is especially important right now when someone like Trump is president. Both he and the base that elected him believe that any country that is not European is a sh!th@le, and every immigrant from a country that is not Norway is a garbage.
In the movie Beirut, the notion that Arabs are people that exist in an endless circle of violence is perpetuated, while supporting every white American’s notion of Middle Eastern realities. Even the tagline of the movie is “2,000 years of revenge, vendetta, murder. Welcome to Beirut.”
Did anyone tell these people that revenge and vendetta are the same thing? Or that the 2,000+ year history of Beirut is not about revenge, vendetta, or murder. The city was 1,500 years old before Europeans even discovered America, and people should spend some time learning the history of their troubled country before judging another by disproportionate standards.
Cinema enthusiasts would never find a Hollywood movie that is set in New York, but portrays nothing relevant to the city it is named after. No film plots that take place in a white European city take the liberty to paint it as a place utterly infected with terrorists. Many crime stories take place in New York, for example, but New York is not held to blame as being the systemic cause of everything that happens within its streets.
Lebanese do not get that same courtesy.
I do not know how Beirut looked in 1982. I was not born back then. But my parents were alive and well, and the film depiction is not the city they knew. Even in among its war-torn buildings, and its social struggles, it was not as one dimensional as the movie. Perhaps the producers could not afford to be historically accurate, deciding instead to film the picture in Morocco because the Middle East all looks the same.
The most unfair part of the movie is the American narrative about the Lebanese Civil War, which had nothing to do with the American Civil War. The release date for the film was chosen as April 13 because it coincides with the 43rd anniversary of when the Lebanese Civil War started.
Dear Hollywood, I understand you have a growing need to be “woke” these days. But being “woke” also involves being aware that other countries and cities are not yours to appropriate and malign for profit. You do not have to make them to perpetuate what you believe is true about those places and people, just to fill your pockets with money at their expense.
I, for one, am boycotting this movie, and I invite every Lebanese to do the same. Featuring our capital but filming somewhere else, focusing on our people but using other nationalities, expressing our heritage but using other languages, accents, and music, while white-washing our national struggles to entertain American movie goes and make them think badly of us, it is not okay.