The Arab world needs to counter its negative stereotypes in films through films of its own, says a writer for a popular Arab paper.
Abeer Mishkhas, features editor for Saudi Arabia-based Arab News, said Arabs must fight film with film, so to speak.
“Whenever I read about a movie or a book portraying Arabs negatively, I wait for some proper responses from our side,” wrote Mishkhas in her column. “By proper responses, I mean intelligent and logical ones in the same medium. Answer with a book or a movie making the point about what is right and what is not. Blanket condemnation and complaints about stereotyping are the least effective of all responses.”
Mishkhas, who studied English literature and drama in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, said movies are wider in popularity than articles and can therefore impact more people.
She said the Arab world—in countries like Egypt, Morocco and Syria—has good filmmakers, but they generally fail to produce movies reflecting an Arab point of view. She said Iran was an exception, and that Iranian films are well-known and well-received the world over.
“It would be very easy to do something if we had the will and mentality to believe in the power of art to deliver the desired image,” she wrote. “Why has nobody thought of producing a film about Arab culture and history, the old as well as the new?”
She said monied interests in the Arab world generally prefer to invest in other ventures like shopping centers, where return on investment is more certain. The result is a lack of support for talented filmmakers wishing to tell their own important stories.
“And here we sit, complaining that the West misrepresents us in films, books and on TV,” Mishkhas wrote. “Who is to blame? The answer is so clear that it hurts.”
Mishkhas, who also studied journalism in London, has worked as an editor at Arab News for more than a decade. Her weekly column focuses mostly on social and women’s issues.
Arab News, begun in 1975 and based in Jeddah, calls itself the “Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.