Sick of Hollywood’s Mideast stereotypes? Check out these 8 made-in-MENA movies
Wisps of pink smoke rise from an unseen candle as mysterious snake-charming music evokes the sensual moves of a belly dancer. The smoke dissipates, making way for a vast landscape of rolling sand dunes where a lone camel plods through a dust storm, casting an eerie shadow.
“I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam. Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face — it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” (continue reading below) Continue reading below »
Such begins the opening number of Disney’s Aladdin, an adventure story based on The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.
For anyone who has spent time in the Middle East, those lyrics are laughable at best and racist at worst — and it doesn’t get much better anywhere you look in Hollywood. From crazed terrorist archetypes to repressed women and flying carpets, Hollywood just can’t seem to get the Middle East right.
Maybe it’s because the film industry is running out of convenient “bad guys” it can get away with. In the past, we’ve seen evil Nazis melt to death, conniving Soviets plot against the United States, and North Koreans attack the White House.
Nowadays, Hollywood’s convenient collective punching bag is Middle Easterners, whether they are Iranian street protesters, Arab airplane hijackers, or just crazy dudes with over-exaggerated, vaguely Arabic accents. Because of this, most Middle Eastern people we see in Western movies are scary, fanatic, antagonists with skewed perceptions of women’s rights.
To balance things out a little, we’ve gathered together eight made-in-MENA movie suggestions that will shatter negative stereotypes made in Hollywood. And no — there are no flying carpets here.