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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Beirut: A Major Hollywood Movie With Jon Hamm & Rosamund Pike Will Be Released in 2018

Cringe moment incoming, or at least I hope it’s not.

Coming in April 2018 is a major Hollywood movie from director Brad Anderson who’s known for movies such as The Machinist, The Call, and Transsiberian is going to be releasing a new movie featuring Rosamund Pike and Jon Hamm titled “Beirut.”

Rosamund Pike’s breakthrough role was most recently in “Gone Girl” for which she received an Oscar nomination, whereas Jon Hamm is known for his role in Mad Men and most recently in the great “Baby Driver.”

Jon Hamm is Mason Skiles, a former U.S. diplomat who returns to service to save a former colleague, whereas Rosamund Pike’s role will be a CIA field agent working undercover at the American embassy who’s tasked with keeping Mason alive and ensuring the mission is a success, as per Wikipedia.

The movie is also written by Tony Gilroy who’s responsible for movies such as The Bourne Trilogy, Star Wars: Rogue One, Nightcrawler and a lot of episodes of House of Cards.

There’s not much information available about the movie as of now except that it’s about a former U.S. diplomat who returns to service in order to save a former colleague of theirs who happens to be in Beirut from the group responsible for the death of his family.

The project has been in the works since 2015, and was filmed during 2016 in Tangier, Morocco, which has me assuming their portrayal of Beirut is going to be less of how the city actually is and more like a Qandahar war-torn desert city, far from its current reality, especially if the movie is another perpetuation of the civil war reputation surrounding the city.

Ironically, the movie is set for release on April 13th – the memorial day of Lebanon’s Civil War. Coincidence is probably not the case here.

Regardless, I hope the movie ends up entertaining and thought provoking enough. Given the people behind it, I am hopeful it will be the case though it being released so early in the year next year means it’s not really geared towards awards consideration, as much as they want it to be a money grabber.

I bet this movie will also be a hit in Lebanon as people flock to theaters to watch their own capital memorialized in film. I just hope whatever product Hollywood ends up giving does it justice, albeit doubtful.

No trailers for the movie have been released yet.

How A Tweet Launched A Mini Regional Crisis: Mossad Launches #TelAvivLovesBeirut, and Beirut Responds

As part of an article on rising travel destinations, Forbes Magazine listed both Tel Aviv and Beirut as some of the locations that Americans are becoming increasingly interested in visiting. As such, an Israeli investment manager called Mark Leibowitz tweeted in celebrating, inadvertently tagging Beirut.com’s twitter account thinking they were the official representatives of the city.

As such, Beirut.com replied from their twitter account that they wanted to be “excluded from the narrative” echoing the ever wise Taylor Swift circa 2016 with her reply to the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian drama. It’s also a narrative they did not choose to partake in in the first place. What they meant was that they wanted their official twitter account not to be associated with such a thing given they’re not representatives of the city in any way. What Mark Leibowitz understood of it was an act of aggression over the statement he made.

Of course, Beirut.com’s reply was not taken on too kindly by the Israeli twitterverse that responded aplenty:

And, naturally, the Mossad intervened.

Of course, such silly hashtag by one of the world’s leading intelligence agencies regarding a country they’re at war with and have been in active conflict with nearly 11 years ago did not sit well with the Lebanese populace on in Twitter.

It hasn’t been a year yet since these threats were made by Israeli politicians against the Lebanese people:

Some of the Lebanese replies though are as follows:

Another day, another drama.

It’s fortunate that hashtags and Twitter wars remain as online media through which people can vent without actual damage being done, or at least damage in the literal sense of the word of what usually takes place when Lebanon and Israel clash.

It’s immensely silly that the Israeli Mossad tried to brush away years of conflict between the two countries with a hashtag as silly as the one they came up with, or that some of the Israelis responding were not aware there’s more to the conflict between the two countries than what began 71 years ago when their country was founded.

If Tel Aviv truly “loved” Beirut, they would refrain their politicians from launching threats at Beirut whenever they want to give a boost to their political credentials, and own up to their own record of attacking Lebanese civilians, admit to the countless war crimes they’ve committed in Lebanon – and that’s for starters. But of course, watch them blurt out Hezbollah as a response.

I may not support all facets of Lebanese censorship or prosecution when it comes to Israel-related entities, but I cannot also stand and watch my country’s own destruction be washed off under a meme.

 

Beirut To Break The Record For World’s Longest Continuing Party At 56 Hours

At a time when the biggest plates of hummus and biggest lemonade reserves aren’t enough, Beirut seems set to do what Beirut does best, and that’s throw the biggest party out there – literally this time.

In 2 weeks, between August 28th at 7PM and the dawn of August 30th, and under the patronage of Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism, Lebanon will try to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous party, at 56 hours. The previous record was held by Dublin, Ireland and was set at 54 hours.

The attempt to break the world record will take place at Nurai, which is located in Monot. In order to accomplish this task, Guinness will be monitoring the place for the set duration of time to make sure it’s continuously in “party” mode.

To help accomplish the task at hand, a bunch of artists, live bands, singers and DJs will be continuously performing for the duration of the party. The Ministry of Tourism will also be providing transportation to and from the site of the event.

I may not be there to participate and I sure am not the go-to person for any partying-related advice (God forbid), and I may also hate the notion of Beirut being synonymous with parties all the time but that has become as part of the city’s identity as its other more traditional landmarks. Is it a bad thing? Perhaps when it’s blinding the Lebanese masses from further critical thought of their own societies as long as Beirut is featured on some list somewhere as a Phoenix rising from the ashes party town.

The world record breaking attempt may not fix the horribly broken sectors that are maiming this country, but it is a good step from the Ministry of Tourism to further boost Beirut’s image as a go-to destination for party goers of the world, especially given that Lebanon hosted one of Tomorrowland’s live events a few weeks ago in July.

It’s especially beneficial at a time when Lebanon’s summer tourism season is seeing a boost with the political calm the country is experiencing and with Arab Gulf citizens slowly but surely returning to their habits of visiting the country to spend their summer vacations. Such an event will also contribute to setting Beirut apart from other cities in the Middle East when it comes to such lifestyle aspects, and – at least momentarily – help airbrush the country’s image, if only for those who are still susceptible to that.

Either way, I hope the event is a success. I hope those who do attend have a good time, and I sure hope the event’s organization is at the needed level for such a massive undertaking.

H/t Adeela.

Justin Trudeau’s Government Rejects Request For Direct Flights Between Lebanon and Canada

Remember that Trudeau fellow whose PR-smart maneuvers have made him one of the world’s, if not the world’s most loved politician? From his quirky socks, to his cheeky videos that celebrate everyone, it seems that this politician’s new views are as restricted as his predecessors, at least when it comes to the hope of finally advancing the aviation sector to allow direct flights between Beirut and Montreal.

In a petition started in 2016, by one of Trudeau’s own MPs, Lebanese-Canadian Eva Nassif, the request for direct flights to be started between Beirut and Montreal was made. The petition garnered 4000 signatures and made its way along Canada’s formal political tracts, up until it seemed that there would tangibly be – at least within the next two years – Air Canada flights that work non-stop between those two destinations.

A source in MEA had indicated that for the first two years after the approval of that flight, Air Canada would have had exclusive rights with MEA selling tickets on its airlines, followed by our national carrier being allowed to fly the route later on – 2019 was a presumptive date.

All of this, however, will now not take place as Justin Trudeau’s government has rejected Air Canada’s request for a direct flight, as mentioned in a tweet by Air Canada executive Duncan Bureau:

The refusal was once again cited to be related to security reasons. This is not the first time this happens with a Canadian government. In 2003, Air Canada had begun selling tickets for its inaugural flight between Beirut and Montreal when, at the last moment, the Canadian government pulled the plug on such a flight, citing yet again, security reasons with a senior government official saying it was to safeguard Canada against terrorism.

Direct flights between Beirut and North America have been banned since the 1985 after the TWA plane hijacking in the airport. Of course, 1985 was prime civil war time in Lebanon and it’s been more than 30 years since, but the only amendment to the ban for American airlines to land in BEY and for MEA to fly to the US has been through U.S. president George W. Bush who allowed American governmental planes from landing in Beirut if they need be.

Canada’s fear towards allowing a direct flight from Beirut to its airports are unfounded. Lebanon has not witnesses the airplane terror attacks that, say, Egypt has witnessed only recently and Cairo’s passengers can still fly directly to Montreal. Air Canada also has direct flights to risky areas around the world, such as Tel Aviv, Istanbul, among others.

However, according to the Huffington Post, it seems Canada’s decision is less about its own security woes, and more about not pissing off its southern neighbor, the United States, which maintains – and would probably not alter it anytime soon – the ban against flights entering its airspace, coming straight from Beirut. You’d think that a PM as anti-Trump as Trudeau would at least oppose Trump in more than just empty speeches, with actual action that would serve about half a million Lebanese-Canadian who could use such flights, but no dice.

The story of Lebanese woes with Canadian airports doesn’t stop with direct flights. It transcends it to the fact that we need transit visas to do layovers in their airports, something that many don’t realize until they’ve booked a flight to or from the U.S. by way of YUL, only to be denied boarding in their airport of origin.

Perhaps it’s time that the Lebanese-Canadian lobby pushes for much needed reform to the way their governments are dealing with Lebanon and its people in regards to this particular issue. After all, such flights and ease on transit restrictions are in the economical interest in both countries, and would go a long way in showcasing a Canada that puts its money where its mouth is, instead of empty speeches and cute socks.

Beirut Filled With Pride Flags, Despite The Cultural Terrorism That Lebanon’s Government Allows

Pictures via Helem.

In Lebanon, religious extremism and cultural terrorism are more accepted than basic human rights. We’ve known this for a while, but got another reminder this week when a fringe religiously extreme group with so much political clout managed to get the Lebanese government to force the cancellation of two scheduled events as part of Beirut’s pride week.

The latest event was organized by the Arab World’s first ever LGBT advocacy NGO Helem, and was aimed at raising awareness through actual facts and expert opinion about the LGBT community in Lebanon. It was supposed to be one of the last events to take place during Beirut’s Pride Week schedule, until Lebanon’s security forces “couldn’t ensure the security of the event” anymore, as was relayed to the location that was hosting it. When Metro El Madina, the location hosting the event, resisted, the pressure from official sides in Lebanon’s governance also rose leading to the event’s cancellation.

As I said before, religious extreme group in Lebanon are a cancer in our society, regardless of which religion they practice. They come in all forms and have been given so much power by our political system that they can literally walk all over our personal liberties and the only thing we can do is sit by and watch as they do so, under the guise of various dimwitted slogans that they permeate, mostly about how anything their religious beliefs don’t conform with is a western ploy to destroy our societies and a sin aimed at fragmenting the fabrics of Lebanon’s holy society.

Except it’s exactly their religious extremism that’s the main threat behind everything Lebanon stands for, when it comes to its societal fabric and construct. The fact that they are allowed to perpetuate their sickening beliefs and force them onto everyone else, especially when the people they’re trying to oppress are acting within their legal and constitutional rights, is horrifying. And this won’t change any time soon.

Shame on Lebanon’s government. They’re the side to blame about both cancellations here. They’re the ones who couldn’t put an irrelevant religiously extreme group in its place and allow an event that was planned within the framework of Lebanon’s guaranteed freedom of expression from going through unscathed. They’re the ones who have allowed our rights as Lebanese to be entirely dependent on whether they abide by the moral code of some religious group somewhere. They’re the ones who don’t have the spine to stand up for the citizens they’re bound to protect.

If Lebanon’s government thinks that massive PR overhaul the country needs will only come through articles in American or European media about how beautiful the country is to visit, they’re massively mistaken. It will come through events such as Pride Week that show the world that this country in the Middle East is grossly different than all of its surroundings and that minds are more open and tolerant here, and that maybe it’d be worth looking at Lebanon with consideration.

And yet, despite all of the religious extremism and cultural terrorism that’s permitted by our political system, Beirut’s Mar Mikhael neighborhood has its bars filled with the LGBT pride flag, also known as the rainbow flag, in order to celebrate the end of the Arab world’s first ever pride week.

As you can see from the above picture gallery, with pictures taken off Helem’s Facebook page, more than a dozen bars around the area sported the flag on one of their busiest nights of the week as a sign of solidarity. This shows that, against all odds, Lebanon’s youth is coming together to advance rights in the country for everyone. Maybe there is light at the end of that tunnel after all?

It’s truly a beautiful sight to see Beirut, against all odds and all threats, wear those flags in such a high profile area and literally not give a fuck about the police or the government behind the police or the extremists who run our government behind the scenes. Perhaps it bodes for a better future. Perhaps one might be foolish in being hopeful, but for such flags to fly high in the Middle East is, well, unheard of. Beirut literally did that.

Now let’s wait for those religiously extreme people’s minds to blow.

Lebanon’s Cancerous Islamists & Other Religious Extremists Didn’t Win: Beirut Celebrates LGBT Pride Week

One step forward, a bunch of steps backwards thanks to cancerous religious extremists whose political reach is always overreaching; this is the story of modern Lebanon.

A few days after Crepaway’s left field ad which featured a same sex couple cuddling by the shore (link), Beirut was in full gear to celebrate its own version of Pride Week, as part of the Lebanese International Day Against Homophobia.

Multiple LGBT NGOs have scheduled multiple events throughout the week for the occasion, from storytelling nights featuring Mashrou’ Leila’s lead singer Hamed Sinno, to a conference on Saturday by HELEM about fighting homophobia, transphobia and biphobia in Lebanon.

Yesterday, however, Lebanon’s establishment dealt a setback to the organization Proud Lebanon which had planned an event this week as part of Beirut Pride Week. The reason was that a Lebanese Islamist organization – hay2at al 3oulama2 al muslimin – decided that such an event was in violation of their own fragile self and what they believe in, which led them to pressure the ministry of interior which prompted the hotel to cancel the event under the guise of them “not being able to keep the participants safe.”

It’s intriguing, isn’t it, that a conference about basic human rights in 2017 cannot be kept safe somehow by security officers. You’d think that they’d be capable of doing the most mundane of their jobs: assign a few officers to the hotel in question, in order to guarantee the well-being of Lebanese citizens who are expressing their constitutionally given right of freedom of expression, but no.

It’s not that they can’t guarantee the participants’ safety, it’s that they don’t want to. Our system is too afraid of irrelevant snowflake Islamists whose entire existence these days is about making sure nothing about this country moves forward in any way that threatens their power. Our system is too terrified of the advances that Lebanon’s LGBT community is making, be it in fighting homophobia to court victories to Lebanon further being the lead Arab country in such issues.

It should come as no surprise that those same Islamists wanted a Coca-Cola poster taken down in Tripoli because it was too “obscene” for their taste. Spoiler alert: it featured two people standing very close to each other. Those same Islamists also objected to a lingerie ad in Beirut under the guise of it being too close to a Mosque. That same ad had been approved previously by the same authorities that were forced to remove it.

The problem is that we have authorities that keep listening to such pests. When will this country stop listening to such cancerous infestations that are hell-bent in keeping everyone in their own dark ages? I guess we’ll never know.

However, those Islamists and other religious extremists who have terrorized the country with their horrendous thought don’t know that the years of struggle that Lebanon’s LGBT community has and is enduring has made them resilient to the hate and discrimination that infests their being.

As such, Beirut’s Pride Week is still underway, and if there’s anything to be proud of, it’s the fact that Beirut is the only Arab city to have such celebrations, in spite of Islamists and religious extremists, and in such an open way. L’Orient Le Jour published an article earlier saying that obscurantism had won. It may have prevented one event from taking place, but that hasn’t stopped the rest of what was planned from still being underway.

Lebanon’s extremists did not win. Their hate won’t win, and it sure as hell won’t find ground this year.

You can check out some of the events at this link. I will be updating this post if any other events are brought to my attention.