Hollywood’s Upcoming Movie “Beirut” Checks Off Every American Stereotype About Lebanon

The trailer for Jon Hamm’s latest movie, titled Beirut, and produced by Bleeker Street, was released yesterday. The movie, set in 1982, tells the story of an American officer who finds himself back in Beirut 10 years after his family was killed there to save a friend of his who works in the CIA after he was kidnapped by some Islamic terrorist organization.

In theory, and the fact that the movie is written by the same people behind The Bourne trilogy, this sounds 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’s forced to exist with.

Here is the trailer:

A Qandahar-esque city ravaged by war: check.

Oriental music with no clear of origin: check.

English spoken like only Americans think terrorists speak English: check.

Mosques on the silhouette of every city shot: check.

Brown kids running around with guns: check.

A terrorist Islamic organization that doesn’t actually exist: check.

The movie not only omits any Lebanese presence in it, but bends the history of the country and of the era that it portrays to make it conform with exactly what Americans think of the city and of the political factors at play. Suddenly, the Israelis are the knights in shining armor trying to save 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 where they live? Hellholes. Their entire lives? Reduced to kids running around cars with plastic guns.

A movie filmed in Morocco, with no Lebanese cast, with no Lebanese input, with no Lebanese insight – and named after the capital city of a country, while it makes sure to perpetuate the exact notion believed by the people in the country where this movie will most advertise itself.

Representation matters. And this is most important at a time when some creature like Trump is president, a creature that believes any country that is not European is a shithole, and every immigrant from a country that isn’t Norway and friends is a disgrace to his country. In the movie, Beirut, the notion that Arabs are people that exist in an endless circle of violence is perpetuated once more, whilst ticking off every white American’s notion of orientalist Middle Eastern realities. Even the tag line of the movie is “2000 years of revenge, vendetta, murder. Welcome to Beirut.”

Did anyone tell these people that revenge and vendetta are the same thing? Or that the 2000+ year history of Beirut is not about revenge, vendetta and murder, but that a city older than the oldest entity in their country is not summarized by what they think is true of it.

What’s worse is that you’d never find a Hollywood movie, say, that is set in New York portray nothing relevant to the city and be named after it. You’d never find a movie set in any “white” European city negatively portray that city as a terrorist infected haven. Instead, all portrayal tries to stay as respectful as possible to the history of the place they’re showing on screen.

We do not get that courtesy.

I don’t know how Beirut looked in 1982. I was not born back then. But my parents were alive and well back then, and this is not the city they knew. Even in its war-torn buildings, and its own struggles. Even our airport back in the 80’s didn’t look the way it was portrayed in that movie’s trailer. They can’t even afford us historical accuracy – but what do you expect from producers who think all Middle Eastern countries are the same, and that filming a movie in Morocco to portray a city thousands of miles away is fair enough and accurate.

The worst part about the movie is that this is an American take on the Lebanese Civil War – to a certain extent at least – while the war itself had nothing to do with them. And then the release date of the movie is set to coincide with the 43rd anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War, on April 13th.

Dear Hollywood, I understand you have a growing need to be “woke” these days, but being “woke” also involves being aware that other people’s countries and cities are not free reign for you to appropriate into movies whose only purpose is to further perpetuate what you believe is true about those places and those people, as well as fill your pockets with money at their expense.

I, for one, will be boycotting this movie when it’s released, and I invite every Lebanese to do the same. Using our capital but filming somewhere else, using our people but using other nationalities, using our heritage but using other languages, accents and music, and white-washing our entire struggles to fit into the cute boxes that would never oppose the notions of the typical American movie goer, while reinforcing what they think of us, is not okay.

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63 thoughts on “Hollywood’s Upcoming Movie “Beirut” Checks Off Every American Stereotype About Lebanon

      • Honestly have you not better & more important things to do than police people’s typos? Perhaps English is not his first language. His meaning is clear & so is yours; so he comes out the winner! This brings out the mother bear in me. Please refrain from inflicting your English grammar fascism on the planet. (Says a native English speaker).

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  1. This is not the first time Morocco has allowed Hollywood to use its country to produce anti-Arab films negatively stereotyping Arabs and Muslims. This is condemnable and shameful of the King and his government for allowing this racism against his own people.
    I think Lebanon should raise this important issue in the Arab League to pass a resolution obliging all Arab countries to refuse Hollywood to shoot films which stereotype Arabs and boycott films and companies which do so. Enough is enough.

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    • Yes – I have noticed that also Ali. I suspect tourism is behind that (hosting very *wealthy* people who are not Arabs). Aside from the obvious wealth accumulating for being a giant film set used for misrepresenting Arabs & Arab landscapes.

      The better to hide their (Marocco) having imprisoned children/whole families of dissidents.

      The other thing I hate is all the Persians (Iranians etc.) & Indians etc. who play us in films as terrorists & Orientalist harem girls; when our Arab actors – from whatever nation they reside – steadfastly refuse those roles. Wow. To those Iranian & Indian etc. actors: We are trying to climb out of a ditch people – so can you please stop pushing us back in!

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      • *Morocco… Part of my brain was spelling in French – the other English! And there is a typo policeman on this thread; hence I’d best be very careful.

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  2. It would be great if you can add a Criticism and controversies section in Wikipedia about this and put a link to your blog.

    On Sun, Jan 14, 2018 at 1:18 AM, A Separate State of Mind | A Blog by Elie Fares wrote:

    > eliefares posted: “The trailer for Jon Hamm’s latest movie, titled Beirut, > and produced by Bleeker Street, was released yesterday. The movie, set in > 1982, tells the story of an American officer who finds himself back in > Beirut 10 years after his family was killed there to s” >

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  3. For sure this film will be a big failure since the film name is Beirut and it was filmed in Morocco, no Lebanese Actors, the story is not realistic as shown in the trailer and as well the Lebanese have already succeeded in having movies about this period “War Period” and their success was international.

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  4. Why are we ashamed of our past? I’ve lived that era and what I saw in the trailer is exactly what I lived and passed through.

    Unfortunately, at that time some Lebanese did consider Israel as the knight in shinning Armor that was here to liberate part of the Lebanese from others whom they considered as not Lebanese.

    I will not go into the story plot; I’ll just confirm the settings and atmosphere which we passed through in that time.

    From the damaged buildings, the chaos, to kidnappings of westerners, to Israeli invasion , to gunmen in the streets. I saw nothing in the trailer that I didn’t live in particular in 1982.

    For sure the movie might be biased, but from what I saw it’s not biased against the Lebanese; but against a certan part of our history that included militants who might have or might have not been Lebanese.

    Here is my input

    A Qandahar-esque city ravaged by war:
    Correct. Examples: Down town, mount lebanon, parts of achrafie, e c.. several areas in Lebanon during civil war. Buildings were damaged like that either due to internal wars, or due to Israeli aerial bombardment which both demolished whole neighborhoods that looked exactly like what you saw in the movie . We’ve lived them and seen them.
    A building is now left out standing (war museum) to act as a reminder of how Beirut was.

    The airport night have not looked like physically what was shown in the trailer, but for sure it wasn’t controlled by the Lebanese authorities

    Oriental music with no clear of origin: check
    No comment. And not important.

    English spoken like only Americans think terrorists speak English: correct .
    Unfortunately many of the fighters were actually university or students in schools. Lebanese have always been known to be literate and some many languages.

    Mosques on the silhouette of every city shot: check.
    No comment

    Brown kids running around with guns: correct .
    Many kids were running the streets with guns, in reality to this date you see them in Palestinian refugee camps.

    A terrorist Islamic organization that doesn’t actually exist: correct.
    Irrespective of the word terrorist and it’s definition (based on whose side a person is with) We had many Islamic and non Islamic organizations (many of still exist in Lebanon today) .

    In conclusion, we should actually use this as a reference and show how dirty the war was to avoid th mistakes of th past.

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    • Some answers to your very thoughtful & first person lived comments. (I could write a dissertation but I am weary of this whole argument).

      As a Lebanese American I know how Lebanese/Lebanon is perceived in the States; which is almost exclusively from television (‘TV’ – forward slash – child indoctrination) & film (‘movies’- forward slash – propoganda).

      It is the *only* depiction of Lebanese/Lebanon/Beirut. It is a hollow unnuanced cartoonish caricature without depth that we see over & over & over. It is shown from the ‘white gaze’ (Euro American narrow perspective). We first have to decolonise our *own* hearts from this Orientalism.

      Still I take your points. My family are DPs/war & occupation survivors. (My mum under US & British bombs in Berlin. My grandfather came to the States after an Ottoman occupation soldier shot his cousin in the head in the cellar of their home in Marjeyoun). I’m sorry you had to live through all of that. Xxx

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  5. Why are we ashamed of our past?

    I’ve lived that era and what I saw in the trailer is exactly what I lived and passed through.

    Unfortunately, at that time some Lebanese did consider Israel as the knight in shinning Armor that was here to liberate part of the Lebanese from others whom they considered as not Lebanese.

    I will not go into the story plot; I’ll just confirm the settings and atmosphere which we passed through in that time.

    From the damaged buildings, the chaos, to kidnappings of westerners, to Israeli invasion , to gunmen in the streets. I saw nothing in the trailer that I didn’t live in particular in 1982.

    For sure the movie might be biased, but from what I saw it’s not biased against the Lebanese; but against a certain part of our history that included militants who might have or might have not been Lebanese.

    Here is my input

    A Qandahar-esque city ravaged by war:
    Correct. Examples: Down town, mount lebanon, parts of Achrafieh, etc..

    In several areas in Lebanon during civil war Buildings were damaged like that either due to internal wars, or due to Israeli aerial bombardment which both demolished whole neighborhoods that looked exactly like what you saw in the movie. In fact the part where he was walking down a street full of torn down buildings is exactly like downtown then.

    I’ve lived through them and saw them.

    A building is now left out standing at Sodeco (acting as a (war museum) as a reminder of how Beirut was.

    The airport might have not looked physically like what was shown in the trailer, but for sure it wasn’t controlled by the Lebanese authorities and militia tanks roamed around it.

    Oriental music with no clear of origin: check
    No comment. And not important.

    English spoken like only Americans think terrorists speak English: correct .
    Unfortunately many of the fighters were actually university or students in schools. Lebanese have always been known to be literate and know many languages.

    Mosques on the silhouette of every city shot: check.
    No comment

    Brown kids running around with guns: correct .
    Many kids were running the streets with real and toy guns, in reality to this date you see them in Palestinian refugee camps.

    A terrorist Islamic organization that doesn’t actually exist: correct.
    Irrespective of the word terrorist and it’s definition (based on whose side a person is with) We had many Islamic and non Islamic organizations (many of still exist in Lebanon today) .

    In conclusion, we should actually use this as a reference and show how dirty the war was to avoid the mistakes of the past.

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  6. Well said, and we shouldn’t just boycott the movie, the government needs to object on it or send an official disclaimer to the producers at least to make a statement. Media should do something as well, we can’t stay passive as always.

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      • Rather than only making a mean comment; as an alternative you could have written why you disagreed w/ this person.

        At least he said something more significant than a schoolyard bully laughter & comment.

        The score till this point: The Judge of the Dead will say Khalil won this round. 🐬

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  7. Excellent cast in a stupid story.
    Where are the Lebanese and who are these black kids with AK47?
    Are we watching Somalian kids in Qandhar Afghanistan? 😁😁😁
    How many mosques did we have in the southern suburbs? The shooting platform looks like Kabul as it reminds me with Chuck Norris’ Delta Force who sneaked through the underground in 1982 which was built in the southern suburbs in 1988 😁😁😁

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  8. ”I don’t know how Beirut looked in 1982” *writes whole article about how Beirut was so pretty in the middle of war*. Lebanese are the most salty people ever when it comes to saying bad things about their country. Get over yourself.

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    • I don’t know who you are to talk about this but i don’t care either, nobody said it looked ‘pretty’ it was war, the people suffered from it. But lebanese people are people not terrorists out to get usa and israel who destroyed our arab countries and took over because americans just can’t mind their own business. This is our country, beirut is our capital, this is our history. So not only is it our right to defend it but also our patriotic duty.

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  9. It needs to be understood that hollywood is the entertainment branch of the military – industrial complex and that the judeo-christian empire has been in a state of perpetual warfare with the islaminc caliphate since they first made contact about 1500 years ago. From the “sheik of araby” on down, hollywood has consistently painted a negative image of arabs.

    http://www.mapsofwar.com

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    • *clapping* Many people are sleepwalking through history – including their own…

      Please see the Jack Shaheen documentary ‘Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood vilifies a people’. It’s on YouTube now. You can also read his book of the same name which preceded it.

      If you are in New York City the Kevorkian Center for Near East Studies in New York University (off Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village) now has his entire archive re. anti-Arab films (& tv etc.) – since his recent passing (memory eternal). 🌲

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  10. It is totally inappropriate nor acceptable to portray a city in a damning manner, with totally in accurate information and with borrowed characters that bare no resemblance to the people of the country!
    Such movies should be banned internationally in support, leading the ones behind the movie to pay a price for their actions.

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  11. I believe the lebanese must – not only boycott this movie- but even sue the director and the producer for distorting the heritage , history and image of this country .

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  12. I was a civilian in Beirut in ’82 and ’83, during periods known as “cease fires.” Haven’t seen the film, so don’t know how the city itself is portrayed. But, for the benefit of readers who don’t have an uninformed political bias, but who do understand the not-so-subtle distinction between the “wild, wild leftist Hollywood” and the contrasting relatively conservative opinions of most Americans outside of Southern California, stick to the critique of the film. Either that, or educate yourself politically.

    As the advice goes, better to remain silent and have some think you’re stupid, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

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  13. America’s motion picture industry had sunk into decadence and depravity a decade ago. Unfortunately Western viewers,particularly, the America’s are predominantly peanut brains that are insidiously subjected to programmed brainwashing strategy that is intended to promote militarism and a Rambo syndrome. Now with Trump at the oval office militarism has taken a leap to the forefront of his political thinking. His infatuation with military, bordering on obsession, constitutes the gravest danger to mankind and is tantamount to a ticking Time bomb. The motion picture industry over the past two decades has been actively involved in promoting US militarism and US omnipotence. One word describes this best: SICK.

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  14. That’s unfortunate. I am no so offended though, because when we stop caring what Hollywood and white Americans think of our country and us, then our actual identity might start coming out. This obsession with what the West thinks to be true of us is just another sad call for attention from us to be liked by the very people who really don’t even like themselves.
    Who cares what a Suburban mom or dad in the midwest thinks of Beirut?

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    • The “suburban mom or dad in the midwest” voted for Trump. Trump has his finger on the button for the big bomb… is playing toy soldiers w/ ‘Dear Leader’ of North Korea & Jerusalem (the terrorist Israelis).

      Plus it profoundly affects how Arab Americans – the oldest/longest here/majority being Lebanese – are treated in our own country by Euro-Americans. Such as the 37 year old Antiochian Orthodox caterer that was murdered/shot to death by his Euro-American neighbour; who had prior to that deliberately run over this Lebanese man’s mother w/ his car in an attempt to kill her; the police having done nothing to protect them.

      We’re on the front lines from dangerous Hollywood propaganda over here. As are Palestinians over there. And so are Lebanese every time an Israeli decides to bomb again… or shoot someone… a Lebanese walking on their own land near the occupation border from a gun tower. Anti-Arab Israelis (those that are) love these Hollywood films that demonise Lebanese/Palestinians/Arabs.

      Otherwise I take your point. (Lebanese American here btw). xxx

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  15. It should be stopped and they should ban it’s release. If someone made a movie about tel Aviv or about any other US ally and changed the facts, the culture, the history etc..it would be banned. This is a cultural and historical crime, and we have had enough of hollywood and their attemots at brainwashing every generation with their lies and fabrications. Enough is enough. We should make movies about them, their savage criminal white men that masacred, pillaged and committed genocide against the native americans…white mans burden! We should make movies about how the zionists stole land, killed hundreds of innocent people and continue to seize land, kill unarmed civilians and try to claim their history and culture as their own. Why cant we have our own hollywood that debunks all their lies and attempts at making the rest of the world seem like a terrorist nest when in reality israel is a terrorist state and the US has more american terrorists than the rest of the world! Look up the definition of terrorism, then tell me where you feel more terrified.
    Enough hollywood, enough zionist lobby, boycott them all

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    • You forgot Hiroshima Nagasaki Dresden Hamburg Frankfurt Berlin (etc.) firebombing/blanket bombing/phosphorous bombs… Napalm in Vietnam… Aside from Iraq & Afghanistan…

      Lebanese American here w/ German mum. My mum survived (barely) the US & British bombing of Berlin. If you want to call lifetime trauma *surviving*. ILLEGAL under international law to bomb civilians.

      Also she was strafed by an allied pilot as she ran w/ a child (& they hit the ground over & over) across a field. He was so close she could see his face through the cockpit. And his cold expressionless eyes looking at her.

      I saw a former flyer in a documentary say they were told by their superiors to empty all their ammo on the way back from a flight at anything that moved – woman & child & dog. So that confirmed what happened to my mother.

      Most Americans have never had to dig the dead bodies of their neighbours out of bombed rubble. Or had mothers that repeatedly mentioned the smell of the corpses stuck in the rubble. Or tell of running w/ an elderly friend who walked w/ a cane to watch him sucked into a burning building by the strong backdraft. And have to keep running.

      If you try to add your voice to their ‘support the troops’ statements; they ask if you “hate the USA”.

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  16. I’ll just pay 1.5 dollars for this when it’s leaked online. I’ll watch and laugh about this with friends over a nice fat join of sweet blonde Lebanese hash.

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  17. Pingback: Jon Hamm, negociador contrarreloj | Las Horas Perdidas

  18. I respectfully disagree on many points.
    Obviously American producers don’t do enough research to give countries the courtesy of showing their peculiarities that differentiate between them. And it is more related to bad production than to seeing Middle Eastern as inferior that they show a wrong airport, bad Arabic, etc. Case in point, the actors are not the best ever.
    But on the point that Beirut in 1982 was not a mess and our parents never saw it this way, it’s wrong. The city’s population decreased by half in 2 years.
    Not looking at the why and when, only facts: American diplomats, heads of intelligence services, journalists, 500 marines were killed, and finally the dean of AUB in 1983.
    So on the point that Americans were not concerned, of course they were, whether it was their business or not to be there.
    We like and want to see our city as great and open, and it is in many ways, but our history is what it is.
    And the most ironic thing is that the article uses “Qandahar” to describe how the Americans turned our city into a stereotype, while using “Qandahar” as one. Wouldn’t Afghanis like to show the beautiful and open aspect of their city as we do?

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    • The issue is bigger: there are zero OTHER type of portrayals of Lebanese/ Lebanon/ Beirut/ Arabs/ Arabic speaking countries in Hollywood films. This has far reaching impact; for Palestinians (US taxes to Fund Israeli oppression/ occupation/ slow genocide/ periodic bombing of Lebanon…) & support for US bombing campaigns against Arab & Muslim countries (Iraq/ Afghanistan/ support of Saudis against Yemenis)… drones…

      … treatment of Lebanese/Arab Americans in America. Not allowing Syrian refugees into the States… the list goes on… (Please see my comments above for more specific examples).

      Please read Edward Said ‘Orientalism’ & the Jack Shaheen book & documentary ‘Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood vilifies a people’ (on YouTube now). 🌲

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  19. Notwithstanding the appalling English syntax, a well written and on the whole, correct commentary. I too will be giving this one a miss, albeit that the movie looks well made – of course the terrorist organization is fictional, it’s called fiction. Actually, parts of west Beirut look neater than the real thing!
    OliverA, NYT, Achrafiyeh, Beirut

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    • Dear English prof habibi ~

      Please come to our party 🌝 & leave your thesaurus & red correcting pen in your shiny car.

      Love ~ The warrior sister of Baal

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  20. Gosh, the man who wrote this story is still trapped in his past..And have not dealt with his own demons; Mister scriptwriter I feel so sorry for you…may your soul be enlighten with Love and forgiveness
    Enough war, enough terrorism, enough Drama… time to move forward and write a true story about Lebanon…

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  21. I am stunned by the level of stupidity of my fellow Lebanese. Not all of them of course. Mainly the falsely emotional and irrational ones. Those are outraged and show their obfuscation at the movie: Beirut, judging that it portrays Beirut and the Lebanese unfairly.
    Those Lebanese are totally delusional and in serious denial. In the 80′ (period of the fictional story inspired by true events) this is what Lebanon was about!? Suicide bombings, kidnapping of foreigners and hijacking of civilian planes. Irrespective of the level of your outrage, history cannot be counterfeited.
    It is like Germans being outraged by a movie showing the horrors of the Nazis in the 30′ and 40′.
    Some over zealous are pointing to a plot masterminded by Hollywood elites to discredit Lebanon. Those should seek firstly knowledge and secondly professional psychiatric help.

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  22. You calk to boycott ! Clearly creates nore marketing for these people! They should be sued ! Petition to demand the government to take action is what I beleive should be done

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  23. Boycotting it in Lebanon won’t make a difference, as it has worldwide reach. On the contrary, it should be released to allow Lebanese to criticize it and defend the real values of Lebanon.

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    • I think it’s ‘How To Alienate & Anger Every Arab on the Planet’ Starring Ignorance. Filmed by Greed. Distributed by Denial of Responsibility. (Please check the listings first though). 🃏

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  24. Standing ovation to you my fellow human…. for standing up for your country and your heritage. And it’s refreshing to hear someone reminding Hollywood that it absolutely in my mind has a responsibility to at least not perpetuate the ignorance and racism that our current administration seems to condone. One of my brother’s favorite co-workers is Lebanese who’s an old-soul with a kind heart. So I know too that many others will agree with your intelligent and realistic review. Good life and happy trails to you.

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