Ah technology… I just lost my comment… am trying again…
Zoe, I’m very curious about the relationship between national screen cultures and identity that you raise here. What is it (or is there something) about Canada as a production space that creates a particular kind of anticipation of truth or reality (realism)? Is the taking up of not-quite-real spaces/narratives within the Canadian filmmaking tradition particularly attributable to the funding question, or is this—avoiding if possible the deeply essentialist potential of this question—also related to what Canadianness itself often stands for in its most mythic sense.
In the late 1990s in Toronto, my partner—and I to a much lesser extent—was involved with Albert Neremberg’s Trailervision, which posited "the movie trailer as a new medium" (www.trailervision.com). The idea was for the 90 second spot to be the movie, primarily using unscripted improv and on the street shooting. Watching these trailers take apart generic Hollywood codes seems akin to what you are describing here: a desire for something for which there is ultimately no referent but that seems "real" nonetheless.
This film looks fascinating.
Michele, one of the things I’ve wondered about in relation to Little Mosque, and to Canadian "ethnic" sitcoms generally, is whether they differ from their US counterparts in not drawing strongly on well-established traditions of ethnic community comedy. Key successes in the U.S.(like Seinfeld or Fresh Prince) draw on the well-honed conventions of Jewish and African-American comedy, respectively. The sometimes stilted character of Canadian sitcoms (or the sense that they are overly contrived) has something to do, it seems to me, with the feeling that they are trying to create comedic traditions out of nowhere.
I remember when Little Mosque began, there were some struggles to figure out the portrayals and comedic aspects to the satisfaction of the Muslim and non-Muslim viewing communities. Michelle, can you provide details on this audience “adjustment?”
Lorna Roth, Associate Professor Department of Communication Studies Concordia University - Loyola Campus 7141 Sherbrooke Street West - CJ 4.325 Montreal, Quebec H4B 1R6 514-848-2424 Ext. 2545 firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for this interesting post, Tarik. I love & am grateful for this video. Helga mentions Syriana — I wonder what a "War on Terror" update on Planet of the Arabs would look like. Also, I wonder what it would be like to compare media which are critical of the GWOT with those that are not. Also, has the increasing presence of Arab films in independent film circles in the U.S. made any difference for representations of Arabs in U.S. media, independent or mainstream?
Hussam, thanks for an interesting clip. I’m going to list a number of issues that both the clip and your comments raised in my mind, rather than attempt a coherent response. Hope that’s ok.
Responses to the clip:
- It is interesting that Ibtihal Khatib confounds religious states and religious coercion (or conversely secularism and freedom of religion), and does not bring up that these ideas stem from particular historical (and geographical) moments of history. Where is the recognition of the influence(s) of the Enlightenment, of modernity, of liberalism, of human rights, etc. in her discourse? And moreoever, why does she not problematize the fact that she seems (as does her interviewer) stuck in problematic binary distinctions (for example sacred texts and building a modern state are at odds with eachother)?
- She says at one point that she thinks of herself as first and foremost as a Kuwaiti. She’s worried that that when it comes down to a choice for the ‘Arab street’ (argh, that term again!) that religious loyalty would trump national loyalty/interest. Without judging one over the other, one must not forget the 20th century experience of the miserable failure of Arab states to offer their citizens all the promises of what such a political entity ought to bear within it. In other words, the ‘state’ (or indeed ‘nationalism’) has done very little for the general Arab population since its emergence in the post-colonial period; why is it such a surprise then, that people may look elsewhere for ‘salvation’?
Responses to your note:
- In an increasingly mediated world and arguably increasingly religious world, I would disagree that the ‘publicness’ of religion leads to oppression and conflict. If anything the increasing mediation and publicness of religion is testament (no pun intended) of the growing freedoms of expression and religion, no? Even of the commercialization of religion. These freedoms are in fact at the root of the ideology espoused indirectly by Khatib: liberalism, secularism, nationalism, etc. I think of so many examples – from the Arab world, from the Muslim world, from the US, from everywhere – in which religion has taken on new mediated forms which have not resulted in oppression, but, in the best case scenario, a new-found freedom of expression, and in a worse (not the WORST) case scenario, a preaching to the choir.
- A minor comment: I take issue with your equating Hizbullah and Hamas with the state, respectively, since both are ‘parties’ within larger ‘states.’
Thanks for an interesting post, which has obviously brought up lots of things to think about on my end!
Tarik, your idea of a conflict made me smile, as we do often forget how the word can have such a different, unexciting, everyday meaning that has nothing to do with the larger geo-politics of world affairs. In that sense, I’m sure all households have ‘conflicts’ over who controls the remote, what show to watch, which music to listen to, etc.
I enjoyed your idea of ‘backwards’ day, laying the blame for everything we (Americans) do on them (Arabs). It got me thinking of different kinds of opposites as well: representations of Americans in the Arab media; ‘positive’ or ‘truer’ representations of Arabs in American or Western media (I’ve had students argue that films like Syriana don’t mis-represent Arabs); the more ‘positive’ influences of Arabs and Arab culture on the West, whether in the mundane and ubiquitious growth of hummus and falafel sandwiches (at least here in New York!) or the historically more significant translations of Greek philosophy… So many different kinds of opposites to consider.
Thanks very much for posting this video Amahl. It reminds me of a very morbid conversation I once had with a producer in Bethlehem. One of his journalists had just been shot and very nearly died. Needless to say the mood was somber. But making the human tradgedy all the more painful was the economic reality of the situation. Medical care and disability payments are of course expensive and there was no insurance available to cover the costs. This is an often forgotten factor that can impinge on the ability of journalists to cover war and conflict. While I have no doubt that nearly every journalist in the area would have been willing to take the place of their fallen colleague, the lack of an economic net can serve as a motivating factor for organizations to avoid taking risks. In this case I believe a story went unreported because the need to concentrate on compensating the fallen journalist made paying a new one impossible.
I’m struck by the near homogeneity of white images in the video when these historical periods also contain plenty of images of people of color.
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Thanks Amahl for an interesting post (I have trouble viewing the video for some reason).
A few things come to mind… Back in 2003, I happened to be standing within eyesight-range of a Palestinian camerama, Nazih Darwazeh, as he was shot and killed in Nablus. It was a relatively small gathering at the time, with a few youths throwing rocks and slingshots at the Israeli military patrolling town. Nazih was wearing a bullet-proof vest with a big ‘TV’ sign pasted with white tape on it. He was shot in the head and died instantly. One of the many, it sounds like… (for articles on his story, see: http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/people/47.shtml) And it occurred to me, as you bring up in your post, that protection of journalists is not within the mandate of the military; and that indeed, Israel wants to protect herself from certain kinds of media coverage, not just from violence or terrorism, thereby equating the two in her rhetoric. As we all know, media has long been a component in the propagandizing of wars, conflicts, and one group’s attempt of legitimitizing its actions over another. I would guess the same happened in ex-Yugoslavia too. And I wonder what impact, if any, groups like CPJ end up having. So I end up quite pessimistic in my outlook…
The second thing that comes to mind is B’Tselem’s recent tactic of handing out video cameras to Palestinians so that they can document any attacks they suffer, whether by Israeli military or settlers. There was one video that surfaced on the BCC a while back of settlers attacking and beating up Palestinian farmers. It didn’t take long for the link to be defunct. B’Tselem also began its own YouTube channel as a way to share some of these videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/btselem Clearly, as video technologies get cheaper and easier to disseminate, those without a voice increase their capability of being heard / seen. While it doesn’t stop them from getting killed in some instances, it does speak to the power of media technology. And in a conflict where one group clearly has the (media and other-) upper-hand, this is actually a moment where I’m willing to embrace the view held by proponents of new technologies that they can be revolutionary. Here, I actually end up somewhat more optimistic…
Thanks for bringing these to our attention, Helga, and for your incisive comments. This definitely a disturbing new way of thinking about Israel’s “vertical control” of Palestinians. Also, though, I think we should remain open to the possibility that these kinds of videos and other parts of Israel’s PR do not do the job they set out to do, at least not as consistently as Israel might wish. What are the comments like on this YouTube video? I’m sure we’re not the only ones who are less than convinced by these videos. This kind of “smart bomb” footage was critiqued way back in first Gulf War for making war seem like a video game, etc. Popular audiences are more sophisticated about media now, and in this moment, I think there is more openness to a critique of these disproportionate wars in general.
For a positively hilarious PR move on the part of an Israeli arms firm, check out this YouTube video. According to the site, “The Israeli arms firm Rafael displayed this Bollywood dance number-based marketing video at the recently held Aero India 2009 in Bangalore.”