This groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged form the earliest days of silent film to today's biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Featuring acclaimed author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs--from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding "terrorists"--along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today. Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture, in the process reinforcing a narrow view of individual Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and internationl policies on their lives. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these Hollywood caricatures unexamined, the film challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.
Director: Sut Jhally
Biographical Summary: Dr. Jack Shaheen, Professor Emeritus of Mass Communication at Southern Illinois University, is a leading scholar of Arab representations in US popular culture. Shaheen is the author of the groundbreaking study The TV Arab and, most recently, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, the most comprehensive review of Arab screen images ever published. Analyzing over 900 Hollywood films made from 1896 to 2004, Dr. Shaheen exposes American cinema's systematic and pervasive degradation and dehumanization of Arabs.
Articles: "Jack Shaheen continues to be a piercing laser of fairness and sanity in pointing out Hollywood's ongoing egregious smearing of Arabs." Howard Rosenberg | Los Angeles Times TV Critic