For decades, the Indian film industry centred around Bollywood has been churning out professionally produced films at a faster rate than any other centralised film industry in the world. Overall, India has the world’s largest film industry, even though outside of South Asia, the most common films are generally those produced in the United States.
Hollywood films have long be rife with historical inaccuracies, racism and obscene portrayals of countries that are not US allies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Arab world where Hollywood film producers cast cartoonish caricatures of Arabs as the ultimate villains.
Hollywood director Brad Anderson is set to release a film called Beirut which has been heavily criticised by international observers as mocking the Lebanese Civil War, insulting Lebanese and pan-Arabic culture and perhaps most strangely, not having a single Lebanese actor nor filming a single shot in Lebanon.
If Lebanon bans the film, as many want it to, there would be a good argument to be made in favour of such a ban. But beyond a ban, the Arab world needs a film industry of its own. While Bollywood films are typically made exclusively for regional consumption, in order to combat the anti-Arab narrative of Hollywood, a would-be pan-Arab industry ought to model itself on Bollywood’s non-western funding sources, combined with Hollywood’s inter-continental reach.
When one examines the monetary assets of the Arab world as a whole, it would be more than feasible to finance and create historically, politically and culturally accurate films that show the world the true struggles, joys, personalities and humour of the real Arab world. While there are film industries throughout the Arab world, there is nothing as centralised as Bollywood or Hollywood to aggregate all the finance, talent and regional diversity within the Arab world.
Arab artists ought to realise that having a vast expanse of countries where everyone speaks the same language (albeit with different dialects) and has a long history of shared experiences, is a supreme asset. It would even be possible to make such films in both Arabic and English, as the finances to coordinate such an effort do exist in the Arab world.
Without being beholden to a Hollywood film industry where anti-Zionism blacklisted more intensively than the anti-Communist purges of the Cold War period, Arabs could say what they want to say, portray what they want to portray and show the wider world who the real good guys and bad guys are, without having to answer to anyone in Hollywood.
Imagine a film not called Beirut but called Palestine, where the interpersonal, community, family and national struggles of the Palestinian people are brought to light in a dramatically compelling film that the entire world would have access to. Even if US cinemas banned such a film due to the pressure of the “Israel” lobby, in an age of online film viewing, it would be more than possible to distribute and promote such films to people throughout the world, including in the US using the internet in conjunction with rented cinemas for special premier occasions.
Arabs ought to use the collective wealth of the Arab world to promote entertainment with Arab characteristics just as countless Hollywood directors use their entertainment industry to sanitise and promote the Zionist agenda.
There is no reason why the Arab world should not unite to make films that show the truth that is lost on the almost entirely anti-Arab Hollywood industry. In an age where the enemies of the Arab world seek to sow sectarian divisions among Arabs, this is the time for Shi’a and Sunni, Orthodox and Maronite, Levantine, Gulfi and Maghrebi to unite in a pan-Arab endeavour that could do more to win hearts and minds throughout the world than any political or academic movement could achieve.