According to a report in the Daily Express, concerned citizens have protested against Pakistan being depicted as a terrorist state in Hollywood films.
As with all trends, people in Pakistan seem to have woken up to it far too late. Pakistanis and Arabs have long-replaced Hollywood’s first favourite - Communists - as the bad guys in productions.
While there have been several attempts by the Arab-American community to protest against the way the Middle East is depicted on celluloid, they have not been able to stop imaginative Hollywood screenwriters from getting their way. One notable example to the contrary though, is the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s efforts in having a line from the opening song of Disney’s Aladdin changed.
The latest bone of contention for Pakistani critics is John Travolta’s From Paris With Love, which released this February. According to Wikipedia, it reportedly depicts Pakistanis as part of a “labyrinth of cocaine and prostitution, and (who) hang around with explosive vests on their tables. Furthermore, their plot is to infiltrate the US Embassy with explosives hidden beneath their burqas.”
A review in the McGill Tribune was scathing in its criticism. “The film upholds the paranoid mentality that any Middle Eastern person could be a suicide bomber, no matter how innocent they may appear. This is most disturbingly exemplified when an enjoyable dinner party is interrupted by Wax (Travolta) abruptly shooting a gorgeous female guest in the head. Reece’s (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) girlfriend shouts, ‘Just because she’s Pakistani doesn’t mean she’s a terrorist!’ But every on-screen Pakistani in the film is, in fact, a terrorist.”
Earlier this year, rumours circulated that the release of Iron Man 2 had been blocked in Pakistan because it depicted a Soviet physicist who had sold Pakistan weapons. However, the reports were denied by Box-Office, which was distributing the film in Pakistan.
Ali Zafar’s Tere Bin has been blocked for release in Pakistan because among many reasons cited by the censor board, it inaccurately depicts Pakistani society. APP reported last week, “The movie was reviewed by a panel of the film censor board and all the members unanimously found the film unsuitable for exhibition in Pakistan as its tone and tenor was offensive and also portrayed the Pakistani society as an embodiment of retrogression where there is not an iota of enlightenment.”
But when it comes to stereotyping, Pakistani filmmakers aren’t far behind. It is rare to find a Lollywood film that depicts India or the West in a fair, let alone positive light, but these films are allowed to screen in the country. Actors such as Shaan, who have starred in anti-Hindu films like Moosa Khan, have no qualms about their role in perpetuating stereotypes or propagating misconceptions.
Anti-Pakistan content has not been a major factor for blocking films. In recent years, the films that have been blocked are those that deal with religion, such as The Da Vinci Code.
The 1956 film The Ten Commandments was blocked for release in Pakistan, and according to the Turner Channel Movies website, “In October 1958, Hollywood Reporter announced that Pakistan was ‘the first country in the free world to bar exhibition’ of The Ten Commandments. The article reported that the action was not ‘levelled against the picture because of its content, but because Pakistan fears the exhibition of the film at this time may incite a small group of illiterate fanatics.’”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2010.
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