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Middle East in Today's CinemaResearch Paper

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¶ … Edward Said that the West's choice or depiction of biased values to Oriental nations has been backed by a discourse which helps vindicate them. Said is of the view that Orientalizing of the Orient wasn't just because Europeans in the 19th century found it to have Oriental characteristics in every way, but also since it submitted to becoming Oriental (Said, Orientalism 5-6). Said contends that constructed facts about the Orient do not essentially depict the true face of the Orient. He states his concern blatantly that the West's perception of Oriental culture, especially Arab culture, are of no interest to him; general perceptions of the Orient prove to be reductive, discriminating and vague, and Said finds no interest in this representation of the Orient. According to Viola Shafik, there are documentaries and experimental films that do not try to overtly contest the 'orientalists' tag, however, try to pose a true, native image that is current with the happenings in present situation- political and social (Shafik).Further, Ibrahim Kalin maintains that modern-day misgivings regarding Muslims are because of several negative associations frequently assigned to Islam. Those beliefs are consistent in presenting Islam as a religion that is intrinsically old-fashioned, anti-reason and rigid (Elouardaoui 2). The way in which numerous Hollywood movies, made after 9/11 attacks, endeavor to present the real truth about Arabs is explored in this paper. In contrast to many Hollywood movies, which have perpetuated a racially- biased Arab image, I believe that movies made following 9/11, like Omar, A Separation, and Circumstance depict Arabs as ordinary human beings, having identifiable concerns and everyday problems. In this paper, the following questions are addressed: How do present-day films strive to break out of the established stereotypes (in the western psyche) concerning Arabs? How successful have these movies been in achieving that aim?

On observing these films' aesthetics, including sounds, camera angles and framing, I have understood that they are deployed to emphasize Middle Easterners' ordinary human characteristics. The above analyses have been carried out through utilizing film theory, especially with regards to identification and subjectivity in the aesthetics of Bella Balazs'cinema. The role of film aesthetics in forging an emotional link between audiences and characters has been underlined by Balazs. Balazs, for instance, highlights the significance of close-up shots, insisting that these shots serve a dual purpose: that of portraying actors' feelings and frame of mind, and that of bridging motivations and feelings of characters to viewers. Furthermore, the contribution of other components of film aesthetics, like tempo and lighting, in visual unification of movie segments are also discussed by Balazs. These concepts are occasionally consulted in this analysis of how aesthetics are employed for underlining common human traits of Middle Easterners, in the three specifically chosen movies.

Omar

With Adam Bakri in the lead role, the movie Omar portrays internal conflicts in everyday Palestine, and describes Israelis as controlling and manipulative. Omar, however, also depicts Palestine's struggle, ultimately creating an impression of futility resulting from occupation (Zablocki 1). In the continuing struggle over inconsequential, if zealous attitudes, the warring communities almost substantiate the 'orientalists' tag that Said so fervently tries to contest in Orientalist (Said). Occupation is directly addressed as one of the themes in the film- it reflects not just the daily struggles of Palestinians; the movie also highlights the struggles of making art in these obstructive situations. The movie begins with showing the male lead risking his life by jumping the wall separating Nablus, West Bank, from Israel's Palestinian localities, to see Nadia, the girl he loves. The very challenge of navigating around Gaza Strip and West Bank also forms a barrier to film production. Omar is set in the current day, in occupied Palestine's core. Screenwriter Abu-Assad has skillfully interwoven political and personal aspects. The movie combines the genres of romance, thriller and drama into a piece of work packed with multiple reversals, chases, plot twists, and action scenes. It can also be aptly said to depict documentary-like characteristics, with its capture of an occupied, divided Palestinian nation, wherein the divide between two elements- political struggles and commonplace familial life -- have blurred entirely (Macnab 1).

The movie doesn't hold back on portraying the Israeli army's brutalities, however, a lot of the appalling violence depicted here is pulled off by Palestinians. Omar is a movie wherein everybody is deceiving everybody else. The reference to Islam, the religion, and its effect on the polity as well as family and social life is not lost here, rather amplified (Said).Though 'never confess' represents a sacred doctrine of freedom fighters, it is soon discovered that treason, to some degree, also exists. A key component of everyday living in Palestine is secrecy and subterfuge. Duplicity extends its roots into the depth of the private lives of characters. Omar must often hide in shadows to meet Nadia. Lovers are dishonest. Childhood buddies either spy on one another, or keep secrets. Paranoia soars as everybody knows that an informant is present in their very midst, however, tracking the informant's identity is very nearly impossible. There is, inexorably, self-deception as well, to some extent, as characters attempt to justify personal actions. Another excellent element of the movie is the manner in which polemics are toned down. Characters face a situation that is evident in itself. Palestine is under occupation; Israel's soldiers are constantly under threat of violent acts. The predicament both sides are in doesn't need to be put into words. A simple image of Omar scaling the wall that separates him from his sweetheart is more expressive than anything in portraying the desperation and yearning felt by the character. Some abrupt lurches in Omar's tone are unsettling. Omar combines light moments of comedy and lyricism with violent, torturous shots- these shifts in mood are purposive (Macnab 1). Though one may dislike the Israeli characters, they are also not shown as unreconstructed barbarians. Their reaction is very much what one would expect from any national army facing such a situation. The common human fallibility, evident across all races of the world is the same, when in incessant conflict where loyalties- to land (nation) or individual may change priorities without notice (Said). Through Omar's eyes, viewers can understand that this situation plaguing Palestine-Israel is a lot more complicated than it seems, and can't simply be settled by a mere concrete divide (Howell 1).

Circumstance

Circumstance, directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz, is a remarkably overheated story of 2 girls- Shireen (enacted by Sarah Kazemy) and Atafeh (enacted by NikohlBoosheri) -- in love. This movie is set in modern-day Iran, which is in a precarious condition today, with its revolutionary, defiant youth community struggling to overthrow a political system that has under it's firm control, on the basis of religion, the country's political, cultural, and social aspects. The movie focuses on depicting abandon by youth in a nation that has, since forever, repressed modernity. The drama, shot in Lebanon, contains some episodes which may feel true. Sixteen-year-olds, Shireen and Atafeh, are best friends and classmates, hailing from liberal families. While Atafeh is secure through her high class family's support, Shireen's parents had disappeared years ago and she is, at school, regarded suspiciously, and believed to be an offspring of enemies to the Islamic Revolution. During the day, Shireen and Atafeh live an ordinary, compliant life, and at night, visit DVD stores, clubs and parties- all of which are unlawful and covert. At times, they go graffiti "bombing" with their friends, while at other times, the two are shown snuggling and kissing in Atafeh's bedroom. Complications arise when Atafeh's older brother, Mehran (played by Reza SixoSafai) returns home. Mehran was once a drug addict (Heroin addiction has become commonplace in Iran), and after attending rehab, has now become religious. Though initially, Mehran seems nonthreatening, he is later shown to have joined Iran's morality police, concerned particularly with transgressions by girls and women. This new connection is exploited by Mehran to overpower his sister as well as her friend (Rigney 1).

Music, which is officially forbidden and/or disdained, abounds in Circumstance. Atafeh, her dad, and (formerly) Mehran, are shown to be fans of Beethoven and Bach. Shireen and Atafeh are also shown listening to native hip-hop, the 1983 "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, and American electropunk. Shireen, in fact, aspires to be a chanteuse, which is a futile aim for women in a nation where they're banned from singing in public. The movie's best moments are its natural, simple ones. One such scene is where Mehran, in a mosque, rebukes a junkie, only to see an Islamic disciplinarian being more compassionate. Another scene shows Shireen and Atafeh covered in hijabs on the beach. On hearing the call to prayer, they strip down to their underwear and go in for a swim, as men surely will not be around to witness this law-breaking. Other scenes depicting young women's harassment by cabbies and cops, which is commonplace, are rendered on a more serious note. These are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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