I recommend an excellent tape I saw about 4 years ago. I wrote a review of
it at the time, which was rejected by many publications before being
publiched by the (Ontario) Association for Media Literacy. You are welcome
to use it if it is any use to you.
The Arab as Scapegoat
INTRODUCTION TO THE END OF AN ARGUMENT (INTIFADA):SPEAKING FOR
ONESELF.../SPEAKING FOR OTHERS...
directed by Jayce Salloum and Elia Suleiman, 43 mins, colour, 1990,
distributed by V Tape, video only.
The idea of representation is crucial in interpreting media images. We are
very lazy about asking important questions like, "Whose version of events am
I watching?" When it comes to representations of Arab people, westerners
often don't realize that the assumptions about Arabs that they take for
granted have been largely constructed for them by their media.
The list incudes childhood stories about Ali Baba and the forty thieves;
history studies of the Crusades; feature film experiences with THE SEVEN
VOYAGES OF SINBAD, the Indiana Jones trilogy, ROMANCING THE STONE, and JEWEL
OF THE NILE; TV cartoon images of Arab stereotypes; sitcom series based upon
the genie/female-slave/belly-dancer image; or the Hollywood archive of
seraglios, sheiks, sand dunes, French Foreign Legion, Lawrence of Arabia,
and flying carpets.
From Laurel and Hardy to Crosby and Hope to Beatty and Hoffman, Arab people
have been represented as disposable background material in B comedies:
classical cases of media construction of "reality" where a whole race of
people is reduced to the role of those who die in movies for the amusement
of others. The Arabs fare no better than North American Indians when western
media producers assume the role of "speaking for others".
INTRODUCTION TO THE END OF AN ARGUMENT... - made by a Lebanese-Canadian
and a Palestinian-American - is a tape about this phenomenon of media
construction, and about how we are victims of it. Coming at a time when we
have all just witnessed a war that killed better than 100 000 (and still
counting) on one side while the other side revelled in its own superiority
(technological, or, by smug media-supported extension, racial) this study of
media construction is a very timely, and at times humbling and humiliating
It combines devastating montages from western media (speaking for others)
with footage shot in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by the two video
artists (speaking for ourselves). The few scenes of the Intifada that the
tape includes are shot, naturally, from the Palestinian side. As viewers,
we are used to scenes in our news where Palestinian youths throw rocks at us
(the camera). Here, we see scenes where Israeli soldiers drive their
vehicles and fire their guns at us (the camera). Oh! the difference it makes!
We see compilations of images from our media showing blatant Arab
stereotyping by Hollywood, TV news and TV mainstream programming; scenes of
life in the West Bank that are for all the world indistinguishable from
scenes of ordinary life in many other parts of the world; scenes of North
American news reporting, piled upon each other, in which meaningless
code-phrases like "substantive dialogue" are substituted for meaning. We
grow to understand that the only substantive part of the dialogue is the
repeated insistence of its substance.
We see extracts from Hollywood features like EXODUS, juxtaposed with news
footage of George Bush repeating like a rap-artist, "Israel - strategic
ally," and we are forced to wonder about the connection between
entertainment and politics.
Sometimes information flashes past our eyes and ears faster and in more
disjointed bits than we can assimilate. Often, the work operates
simultaneously at several different levels, layering and juxtaposing words,
titles and images to drive home points that we may have become too media
drugged to recognize on our own.
When you see half a dozen scenes of propaganda dialogue from EXODUS, or
witness politicians mouthing the same empty phrase twenty times in a few
compilated seconds, when you finally get the point of the title, "PART ONE"
after it's been inserted in the tape for the fifth time, then you begin to
understand what the video artists are after.
Some will dismiss the entire work as Palestinian propaganda, pointing to
the sections that are critical of the American-Israeli alliance. Others,
puzzled, will ask where the story line is. But many others will allow the
piece to make its major point for them, and will admit that they have been
encouraged to think and act in racist ways about all Arab people by official
and semi-official sources in media and government.
For these people, the pay off is in taking charge of their own perceptions
and conclusions. They will not necessarily take up the Palestinian cause,
but they will be ready to acknowledge the importance of the artists'
admonition: "someone else's version is just waiting to explode in your
face," and may be more inclined to consider the tape's closing question:
"Why don't you leave the poor fucking Arabs alone?"
MEDIACY, vol 15 #1, Winter 1993. (c)1992 Chris M. Worsnop
>i need any kind of matirial about Palestinian cinema (critic, research,
>assays, etc.) for a seminar paper i'm writing.
>does anybody have any suggestions ?
>Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
>University of Alabama.
Chris M. Worsnop
Consultant, speaker, workshop leader, writer
media education, assessment, writing
2400 Dundas Street West Email: <[log in to unmask]>
Unit 6, Suite 107 Phone: (905) 823-0875
"The film is possibly the one art form in the world that is WANTED." Stanley
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.