Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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SAUDI ARABIA: Stale popcorn?

November 7, 2007 |  9:11 am

In response to our Oct. 31 post, "Banished from the kingdoms," about the banning of director Peter Berg's new film "The Kingdom," in the Persian Gulf,  Saudi Arabia expert Stephen H. Franke writes:

"This film disparages the Saudis, their culture, and the Saudi organizations for public safety/national security, and the film also aims to 'get in the face' of every official organization depicted, including the US Department of State and the FBI."

In his extensive and thoughtul comments, Franke also says the movie is unrealistic, loaded with "numerous nonsensical and inaccurate items, scenarios which would be impossible."

In "The Kingdom," four hard-nosed FBI agents fly to Riyadh to hunt down those behind a horrific terrorist bombing of a compound housing U.S. oil workers. In the end, the movie is your average action-packed popcorn movie with a post-Sept. 11 twist. But Franke is not your average moviegoer. Not only is he the chief trainer in intelligence matters for the Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program in Riyadh, but he agreed to critique the original script for the film, which begins with a startling opening sequence  (above) recounting 60 years of U.S.-Saudi relations in three and a half minutes.

Hollywood has struggled hard to sensitively address troubles in the Middle East.  Fellow Babylon blogger Ashraf Khalil in an article in the LAT last month described the dilemmas Arab actors face in a Hollywood that seems to only want them to play terrorists.

How about other readers? What do you think of the "The Kingdom"? How would you rate Hollywood's performance in the "war on terrorism"?

— Borzou Daragahi in Irbil, Iraq