Sunday, March 07, 2004
Those mean Republicans: More evidence (as if it was necesssary) that Hollywood isn't that thrilled about Republicans. The Wall Street Journal ran an article (link for subscribers only) about the Academy Award-nominated Best Foreign Film "Osama," about a girl who poses as a boy to support her family under Taliban rule.
A film about Osama arrived at the White House a few weeks ago, and President Bush has been raving about it ever since. He told cabinet members they should each get a copy and watch it for themselves. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao agreed it was one of the more important videos they had ever seen, too. First Lady Laura Bush even invited some friends, including the wife of the Afghan ambassador, for a White House private screening.
So what are all the raves about? A low-budget drama, "Osama," is the first movie to be made in post-Taliban Afghanistan, the story of a 12-year old girl who must disguise herself as a boy named Osama to support her family after her father and brother have died. Under Taliban rule, women and girls couldn't leave home unless escorted by a male relative.
You'd think the movie's distributor would be running with the endorsement, which became part of a recent speech by Mr. Bush in which he used "Osama" to justify foreign policy. But the endorsement is a "double-edged sword," says Danny Rosett, executive vice president of the distributor, MGM unit United Artists. Furthermore, Mr. Bush's use of "Osama" is even making some members of the American-Muslim and Afghan community uncomfortable.
On the one hand, notes Mr. Rosett, it's a "good thing" that the movie is acclaimed by both the right and left as worth seeing. On the other, "I don't think it should be used to justify foreign policy one way or the other." UA bought the U.S. distribution rights at last year's Cannes Film Festival. "We all realized it was a timely message without making a political statement one way or the other. We didn't see it as something the right would embrace," says Mr. Rosett. Despite the White House publicity, he doesn't expect box office to hit $1 million.
While Muslim groups generally praise the film, others are uneasy about the White House's active support. "I think it was unwise on the administration's part," says Nader Elmakawi, an outreach coordinator with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a humanitarian group that promotes Islamic values. He adds that while the movie accurately depicts what life under the Taliban was like, the president's praise leaves unsaid just how violent and unstable Afghanistan remains in the wake of the war. Suraya Sadeed, founder of Help the Afghan Children Inc., says she has "mixed" feelings about Mr. Bush's embrace of the film, too. "It all depends on how we define 'liberation.' What bothers me at this point is that the people of Afghanistan still cannot make decisions for themselves. It's not a democracy."
While Afghanistan is certainly no liberal democracy, it is infinitely better than it was under Taliban rule -- for both the Afghan people and the people who were threatened by the Taliban-harbored al Qaeda.
It would be amusing if it weren't so sad. Hollywood-types are so disgusted by "right-wingers" that they "worry" that some of them might be inspired by a film describing the horrors of what was once one of the world's most repressive regimes.