Only one Arab movie makes Oscar cut
The Middle East war often flares up on the big screen between the forces of the racist communications savvy Israel and the oppressed people of Palestine and the Arab World. But this year, only one movie has made it to the partisan prejudices of the corrupt Western World, that originates from a Middle Eastern country. “The Insult” from Lebanon is one of five films in the category of “Best Foreign Film.”
By Ray Hanania
The Middle East war often flares up on the big screen between the forces of the racist communications savvy Israel and the oppressed people of Palestine and the Arab World. But this year, only one film has made it to the partisan prejudices of the corrupt Western World, that originates from a Middle Eastern country. “The Insult” from Lebanon is one of five films in the category of “Best Foreign Language Film.”
A documentary depicting the challenges of the civil war in Syria, “Last Men in Aleppo” received an Oscar Nomination in the category of “Best Documentary Feature.”
That Israel is excluded isn’t insulting at all.
Best Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)
“The Insult” is a 2017 Lebanese drama film directed by Ziad Doueiri and co-written by Doueiri and Joelle Touma. It was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival. At Venice, Kamel El Basha won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor. It was selected as the Lebanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards.
Lebanese Christian Tony (Adel Karam) and Palestinian refugee Yasser (Kamel El Basha) exchange harsh words after Yasser tries to repair a drainpipe on Tony’s balcony. The fallout leads to violence, courtroom confrontations and national attention.
- Adel Karam as Tony Hanna
- Kamel El Basha as Yasser Abdallah Salameh
- Rita Hayek as Shirine Hanna
- Camille Salameh as Wajdi Wehbe
- Diamand Bou Abboud Nadine Wehbe
- Talal Jurdi as Talal
- Christine Choueiri as Manal Salameh
- Julia Kassar as Judge Colette Mansour
- Rifaat Torbey as Samir Geagea
- Carlos Chahine as Judge Chahine
The lone nomination will make for a boring Academy Awards competition, which is usually driven by the biases of its membership, although we’ll be cheering hard for “The Insult” to win, if only to insult the bias and racism that is reflected so deeply in Hollywood made movies.
One documentary exploring the Syrian war also received an Oscar nomination, “Last Men in Aleppo.”
Best Documentary Feature:
Feras Fayyad’s ‘Last Men in Aleppo’ has been nominated for an Academy Award® in the Best Documentary Feature category. The film, which premiered on PBS’ POV in July 2017 as part of the series’ 30th season, is a powerful firsthand account of the daily trauma that grips the city of Aleppo four years into Syria’s Civil War. Fayyad has made Oscars history as the first Syrian filmmaker to be nominated for the Documentary Feature Award. POV documentaries have been nominated for 27 Academy Awards, and have won three.
The film, available on Netflix and in the POV Lending Library, unveils the Syrian War’s terrifying aftermath, and the volunteer rescue workers and first responders known as the White Helmets who stayed behind to pull their neighbors from the rubble.
‘Last Men in Aleppo’ had its U.S. Broadcast premiere on POV in 2017 as part of a collection of five documentaries covering the Syrian war and global refugee crisis. This showcase aired nationwide during the first three weeks of the series’ 30th anniversary season. In addition to the broadcast, POV worked with refugee resettlement organizations, interfaith groups and other partners across the country to present advance screenings of ‘Last Men in Aleppo’, including 20 events commemorating World Refugee Day. Ranging from small gatherings at local libraries to large events in partnership with the New York Times, the Independent Documentary Association and the Skirball Cultural Center, these screenings featured panel discussions with journalists and experts on international refugee policy.
“From the moment we saw this film pitched in 2016, we knew it was a special project,” said POV executive producer, Justine Nagan. “The access, intimacy and immediacy made it an essential part of our 30th season, and an unforgettable cinematic experience for anyone who has seen it. POV is proud to have made it widely accessible to American audiences on PBS, in communities and online. We have loved working with Firas and his team and are elated that the film, and the courage it captures, is being recognized by the Academy.”
To assist screening partners in leading discussions and developing educational activities around the film, POV produced several companion materials for Last Men in Aleppo. Available on POV’s website at no cost, these resources include a standards-aligned lesson plan for students in grades 9-12 and above; a suggested reading list; a discussion guide; and a variety of film clips for educational use. The guide includes background information on the Arab Spring uprisings, the Syrian war and refugee crisis, and the White Helmets, as well as prompts for dialogue, a list of resources and steps for taking action on the issues raised in the film.
‘Last Men in Aleppo’ is in excellent company in the Academy Awards® Best Documentary Feature category. Former POV series producer Yance Ford received a Best Documentary Feature nomination for his documentary film ‘Strong Island’, which was produced in association with POV. POV filmmaker Agnes Varda (The Beaches of Agnes, POV 2010) was also nominated for a Best Documentary Feature for her film ‘Faces Places.’ The rest of the category is filled out with PBS Frontline documentary ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’ from director Steve James, distributed by PBSd and executive produced by POV’s Justine Nagan, and ‘Icarus’ directed by Bryan Fogel.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary on PBS this past season, POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary showcase. The 90th Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2017 will be presented on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.
About the filmmaker:
Feras Fayyad, Director
Feras Fayyad is an award-winning filmmaker who has worked as a film editor and cinematographer on several documentary and narrative films. He has participated in international film festivals and received recognition for his work with contemporary Syrian issues and political transformation in the Arab world.
Steen Johannessen, Co-Director, Editor
Steen Johannessen is an experienced editor of a number of internationally acclaimed documentaries, including Motley’s Law, Miners Shot Down and Warriors from the North. Last Men in Aleppo marks his debut as a co-director.
Søren Steen Jespersen, Producer
Søren Steen Jespersen has produced several award-winning documentaries and directed Warriors from the North, winner of Best Mid-Length Documentary at Hot Docs 2015.
Kareem Abeed, Producer
Kareem Abeed is a Syrian producer and one of the founders of the Aleppo Media Center. Abeed has worked as a producer for video features on Syria with several international outlets, including CNN, BBC and Channel 4.
Director: Feras Fayyad
Co-Director, Editor: Steen Johannessen
Producers: Søren Steen Jespersen, Kareem Abeed
Cinematographers: Thaer Mohammed, Mojahed Abo Al Joud
Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan and Chris White
Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films. Since 1988, POV has been the home for the world’s boldest contemporary filmmakers, celebrating intriguing personal stories that spark conversation and inspire action. Always an innovator, POV discovers fresh new voices and creates interactive experiences that shine a light on social issues and elevate the art of storytelling. With our documentary broadcasts, original online programming and dynamic community engagement campaigns, we are committed to supporting films that capture the imagination and present diverse perspectives.
POV films have won 37 Emmy® Awards, 19 George Foster Peabody Awards, 12 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards®, the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award and the Prix Italia. The POV series has been honored with a Special News & Documentary Emmy Award for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, three IDA Awards for Best Curated Series and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Award for Corporate Commitment to Diversity. Learn more at www.pbs.org/pov/.
POV Engage (www.pbs.org/pov/engage/)
POV’s Community Engagement and Education team works with educators, community organizations and PBS stations to present more than 650 free screenings every year. In addition, we distribute free discussion guides and standards-aligned lesson plans for each of our films. With our community partners, we inspire dialogue around the most important social issues of our time.
POV Digital (www.pbs.org/pov/)
Since 1994, POV Digital has driven new storytelling initiatives and interactive production for POV. The department created PBS’s first program website and its first web-based documentary (POV’s Borders) and has won major awards, including a Webby Award (and six nominations) and an Online News Association Award. POV Digital continues to explore the future of independent nonfiction media through its digital productions and the POV Hackathon lab, where media makers and technologists collaborate to reinvent storytelling forms. @povdocs on Twitter.
American Documentary, Inc. (www.amdoc.org)
American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.
Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wyncote Foundation. Additional funding comes from Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, Bertha Foundation, The Fledgling Fund, Reva & David Logan Foundation, Open Society Foundations, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.
The Academy Awards presentation will be held on March 4, 2018.