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A politicised Oscar ceremony


by Sunny on 6th March, 2006 at 5:21 am    

With Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Syriana, Munich and Good Night and Good Luck headlining the ceremony - it’s no surprise this year was probably the most political Oscar ceremony yet, and not to the delight of conservatives either. If I was bothered, I would have watched it for Jon Stewart.

The biggest controversy arose in the foreign film category over Paradise Now, of which I’m sure many of you are aware. On that, Jamal writes:

Paradise Now depicts the story of two young Palestinians in Nablus who were chosen by a local terror group to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. Now it has been Oscar nominated, there is a petition demanding its removal on the grounds that it glorifies Palestinian suicide-bombers, … theres a counter-petition too!

I’ve not yet seen the movie, but I understand that that the controversy stems from those who want us to think that any sympathetic treatment of Palestinians is anti-Semitic, when the reality is that: “It is a story about the suffering of Palestinians and how a life of desperation can lead to an act of desperation.”

I read refreshing points from J.T who questions why we should not be allowed to explore why such violent protest is used by the people of Palestine, a country considered not to exist. It is oppressive in itself for their vilification, bulldozing and killing to be considered acceptable, while the understanding of their offensive/defensive motivations and strategies is considered unacceptable.

The suicide-bomber uses a lethal and life wasting strategy, but then so did the frontline troops on the battlefields of WWI, as did the Kamikaze pilots of WWII.

I haven’t seen the film either yet, but I’m disappointed at the continuing efforts at restricting freedom of speech over the issue.

George Clooney, who has suddenly become one of my favourite actors/directors, summed it up best:

“We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while,” Clooney acknowledged referring to an earlier joke by Oscar host Jon Stewart.

“We were the ones who talked about AIDS when it was being whispered. We talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular,” he said. “I’m proud to be part of this Academy. I’m proud to be part of this community. I’m proud to be out of touch.”

And although I liked Crash - I fail to see why Hollywood is making such a big deal out of it. That is everyday life for Londoners isn’t it?

Technorati tags: Crash, Oscar, Jon Stewart, Paradise Now


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45 Comments   |  


  1. soru — on 6th March, 2006 at 10:12 am  

    We talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular,

    Suicide terrorism isn’t all that popular right now, certainly. But is that something that there should be an organised campaign to change?

  2. Haskel — on 6th March, 2006 at 10:39 am  

    I haven’t seen the film either, so I don’t want to be drawn into a discussion of its merits (or otherwise). But is it really accurate to characterise this campaign as ‘censorship’?

    The language of the petition may be highly emotive, but all it does is condemn the film’s politics, and call for it to be withdrawn from a competition which gives awards to films according to their aesthetic merits. It does not call for ‘Paradise Now’ to be banned, nor does it threaten a boycott or any sort of reprisal if the petitioners’ demands are not met, but relies on the force of its arguments instead.

    It certainly does not imply that ‘any sympathetic treatment of palestinians is anti-semitic’ either. Many such films have been screened internationally in the past few years without arousing much friction. To cite just a few recent examples: the Israeli documentary ‘Avenge but one of my two eyes’; the Palestinian comedy ‘Divine Intervention’; and the Israeli-Palestinian co-production ‘Atash’.

    The best time to discuss the merits of this film would be when more of the participants of this blog have seen it, but it would be nice to then have a debate on the content of the film itself, not to dismiss legitimate argument as an attack on freedom of speech, or stigmatise abhorrence of suicide bombing as hatred of Palestinians.

  3. Al-Hack — on 6th March, 2006 at 12:23 pm  

    call for it to be withdrawn from a competition which gives awards to films according to their aesthetic merits.

    Would you say most of those signing the petition and have seen the film then? Sounds to me they don’t want such films to be internationally popular.

  4. Jay Singh — on 6th March, 2006 at 12:24 pm  

    Frontline troops in World War 2 are the same as children and men and women walking on the street in Israel? Civilians? Teachers, students, bank workers, street cleaners, bus drivers, they are the same as frontline soldiers in World War 2?

    What absolute arrant nonsense. The suicide bombing justifying mentality - this is how it breeds. When the lads from Hounslow and Derby went to Tel Aviv and blew themselves up, where was the frontline there? Since when was the Circle line and number 79 part of the frontline?

  5. kay — on 6th March, 2006 at 12:50 pm  

    Well said Jay.
    Crash is everyday life for Londoners, yeah racism does exist perhaps in a more subtle form, institutional racism exists but there isnt much reform. In the field I work in, there isnt an asian face at Senior Level. Sad really.
    Films like Paradise Now might help broaden peoples opinion about Palestine and its people and the rationale behind the motives of suicide bombings. Suicide bombing are unjustified and evil acts but we might be able to understand why young palestines are willing to undertake such trecherous acts.

  6. Haskel — on 6th March, 2006 at 1:02 pm  

    ‘Sounds to me they don’t want such films to be internationally popular.’

    In all likelihood no, they don’t. But there’s still a huge gulf between coercing what people can say or see (censorship) and presenting arguments against it (critique). If you read what Nonie Darwish, or Asaf Zur’s father actually say, it’s clear that this is quite plainly an example of the latter.

    Why is it sometimes seen as more legitimate to allege supression of free speech than to listen to arguments presented against a film that, after all, set out to be controversial?

  7. leon — on 6th March, 2006 at 1:55 pm  

    I must say I thought Crash was rather crap. Pretentious, boring and predictable. Yes it was good to have race examined in a major release but couldn’t they have done it without the cheesy dialogue and cliches?

  8. Silva — on 6th March, 2006 at 2:08 pm  

    At least Spielberg didn’t win with his zionist bull.

  9. Don — on 6th March, 2006 at 2:15 pm  

    All that praise for Brokeback Mountain didn’t seem to carry over into a secret ballot. Wonder why?

  10. Amit — on 6th March, 2006 at 3:42 pm  

    Well said Haskel, I agree with your sentiments. I have yet to see the film either but naturally this blog has intrigued me and so I will watch it as soon as I get the chance.

    It is easy to see why it could potentially be seen as anti-semetic from a particular stand point but being liberals it is easier for us to perceive the film from a different point of view.

    “Now it has been Oscar nominated, there is a petition demanding its removal on the grounds that it glorifies Palestinian suicide-bombers, … theres a counter-petition too!” Removed from what? The Oscar nominations list? If so the argument seems weak at best.

  11. Al_Mujahid_for_debauchery — on 6th March, 2006 at 3:45 pm  

    “At least Spielberg didn’t win with his zionist bull”.

    The Zionists are saying that they didnt want Spielberg to win with his pro-palestinian bull!

    Finally a movie on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, that both parties think is biased.

    Spielberg must be doing something right ;)

  12. Raw Data — on 6th March, 2006 at 3:57 pm  

    “It is a story about the suffering of Palestinians and how a life of desperation can lead to an act of desperation.”

    Oh nonsense. More simpering. There are plenty of alternatives to blowing people up. Plenty of people lead lives of desparation and don’t resort to terrorism.

    It is Palestinian inability to grasp those alternatives which condemns them to their “desperate” condition. They have no one to blame but themselves. But as self-pitying Moslems they believe their fate totally in the hands of others and here it is the Jews. I am so sick and tired of hearing about how the Moslems are the downtrodden of the world. Grow up and take some responsibility for your own lives rather than continually blaming others.

  13. Riz — on 6th March, 2006 at 5:17 pm  

    perhaps more important that these being political films is that they are ‘thoughtful’ films. I just hope Hollywood keeps delivering the goods. That said, I feel a bit like a kid who has had his sweeties taken away from him - the summer months will no doubt fix this problem, delivering typical Hollywood fare such as Mission Impossible III, Superman and X-Men 3.

  14. David T — on 6th March, 2006 at 5:20 pm  

    Admittedly, X-Men did have Nazis in it, and was a “metaphor” for something

  15. Sid D H Arthur — on 6th March, 2006 at 5:21 pm  

    Paradise Now isn’t the first Palestinian film to arouse protests. Palestinian films that have been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Award by the Academy have been also been lobbyed out of the nominations on the grounds that “Palestine is not a legally recognised state or country” in the past by organisations such as the Jewish Defense League.

    They have succeeded in keeping the voice of Palestinian artists pot of the Academy Awards in the past just as they are attempting to do so now, with Paradise Now.

    There is a reason for this, as explained by the writer, Ray Hanania:

    “Its not like a Golden Globe award is the equivalent of an Oscar award. They are not. A Golden Globe gets you recognition. An academy award can force the majority of American movie-goers who didn’t see it, to take serious notice and go see the film at the theaters or rush to buy and rent the DVD.”

    And it is the possibility of that recognition, that possibility that films can and do win support for a cause which is why there are so many calls to void Paradise Now, and other Palestinian filsm that get to international status, to be voided to the dustbin.

    Hanania’s article is worth reading in full.

    Why shouldn’t the narratives of what brings people to become terrorists not be explored by artists, film-makers and writers? If every film that dealt with terrorism were guilty of glorification of terrorism, should Santosh Sivan’s film, “The Terrorist”, (in Tamil) also be banned? Because if that were the case, people would be missing out on an amazing piece of film-making.

    The film that won the BFLFA this year, was Tsotsi. This is what Gavin Hood said of the other films in the same category in his acceptance speech:

    I just want to thank my fellow nominees who I’ve become deep friends with. We may have foreign language films, but our stories are the same as your stories. They’re about the human heart and emotion.

    I say we leave it to the artists.

  16. Sid D H Arthur — on 6th March, 2006 at 5:49 pm  

    “I’m proud to be part of this Academy. I’m proud to be part of this community. I’m proud to be out of touch.”

    Its so satisfying to see that Clooney is more than just a pretty face. He takes the stigma out of being handsome for us good looking people. ;-)

  17. j0nz — on 6th March, 2006 at 5:50 pm  

    Crash was f**** superb. Hardly political though.

    Paradise Now. If only suicide bombing was a glamourous or even righteous as they make out in this film, then a lot more would be doing it!

    In reality, a signifcant portion of those ‘recruited’ into suicide bombing are far less willing. They are recruited for their mental weakness, for money for their families, through intimidation. The real terrorists are the fuckers pulling the strings convincing a family to ‘martyr’ their 18 year old son.

    That’s not to say some suicide bombers do want to do it, and are righteous about it, but I reckon this is not the general reality. Who hasn’t heard about the stories of the poor Palestinian kids who were bullied or ‘recruited’ by Hamas only for the something to go wrong and these kids are captured by Israeli security forces. Sad. Very Sad.

  18. Don — on 6th March, 2006 at 5:57 pm  

    Aileen; Portrait of a Serial Killer showed the circumstances which lead the central character to kill, and was, if not sympathetic, at least empathetic. I don’t think Broomfield was accused of glorifying serial killers (except by the moonbats).

    In principle there is everything to be said for an examination of what causes people, intrinsically no different to us, to do things we find utterly abhorent.

    Like the rest of us, I haven’t seen the movie, but I don’t get the impression that it is bloody-shirt waving propoganda. If it is, then it will make the same impression as that Turkish movie about the heroic suicide bombers resisting the evil Americans and Zionists who are harvesting organs from Palestinian children - who hadn’t even broken the social contract. In other words the usual suspects will wail and beat their breasts as the virtuous are abused, and howl with foam-flecked glee as the minions of Satan are blown to rags. The rest of us will shrug and move on.

    There is a propoganda war going on over Palestine (if I may state the bleeding obvious). It’s hardly suprising that this gambit was made. It didn’t work, it has made it more likely that I will watch the movie (when it comes out on DVD, our local flea-pit is unlikely to see this as attracting Harry Potter sized audiences.)

    By the way, does anyone recall the name of a movie set in Afghanistan, involving a woman searching for her sister? The one with all the artificial legs being parachuted down?

  19. Sid D H Arthur — on 6th March, 2006 at 6:03 pm  

    Kandahar?

  20. Don — on 6th March, 2006 at 6:13 pm  

    Thanks, Sid.

  21. Sunny — on 6th March, 2006 at 7:35 pm  

    I saw Munich - thought it was quite good.

    What is interesting is that many people want to shut down any discussion that might humanise Palestinians struggling for nationhood. I don’t support suicide bombings in any way, and know that Hamas are a bunch of terrorists… but why is it so taboo to discuss their motivations?

    I don’t remember anyone in the west saying that Russians should not be glorified or be shown in any good light during the cold war because it was going to incite hatred against westerners.

    There is also the assumption that by watching such films people will automatically sympathise. Munich simply says - ‘an eye for an eye makes the whold world blind’ - a saying of Gandhi. Yet some are hysterically going on about it as if Spielberg is some terrorist sympathiser. Any attempt to shut down such debates only leads to a backlash.

    I thought Crash was a good story, but not worthy of an oscar. There seems to be an element of Hollywood patting itself on the back for recognising and dealing with racism.

  22. jamal — on 6th March, 2006 at 9:03 pm  

    I havent seen this film yet but I will buy the DVD now. If it provides a different perspective then Im all for it as Palestiniens may be murdering in the region, but then so are the Israelis too. As Clooney implies, the plight of those considered unpopular should also be recognised in the mainstream. Nevertheless, Im passing judgement until I watch the movie.

  23. jamal — on 6th March, 2006 at 9:09 pm  

    Also, I have found on many issues that people consider discussion of the taboo subjects as an indication of sympathy and support. A deeper analysis usually uncovers that those passing this judgement do so out of their own subjective rationale. To consider the motivations of a palestinian suicide-bomers, UK soldier, or even a Nazi, does not mean we have sympathy or support for them or their acts.

  24. Don — on 6th March, 2006 at 10:48 pm  

    ‘ a palestinian suicide-bomers, UK soldier, or even a Nazi,’

    Too fucking sly to let pass.

  25. Sid D H Arthur — on 6th March, 2006 at 11:08 pm  

    If a film that portrays how a boy from Nablus decides to become a terrorist to avenge the killing of his family, is the film problematic because:
    1) It glorifies terrorism
    or
    2) It empathise with the boy’s actions with the use of one of the most effective devices for cinematic storytelling: the act of revenge.

    In which case, should most of Martin Scorcese’s opus be banned too since they glorify gang violence using the same well-worn device?

  26. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 9:24 am  

    I’m a moonbat

  27. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 9:37 am  

    That last one is aimed at #18.
    OK, Portrait of a Serial Killer didn’t glorify serial killers in the sense of dressing them up in bling and giving them a record contract. But it was an awful film that left you asking what the fucking point of it was. To me, it appealed to a voyeuristic curiosity and in that sense glorified serial killers. As I said, I’m a moonbat.

  28. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 9:40 am  

    Still, Don, I would like to reinforce your post at #24 with the observation that Jamal’s comment said it all:
    Nevertheless, Im passing judgement until I watch the movie.

  29. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 9:52 am  

    Crash was a class, superb, a brilliant movie that handled the complex and hypocritical racist prejudices that continue to dog even the most advanced and intergrated communities.
    It was much better than Battyman Mountain. Aggghhhhhh. I’ve been found out. What will all my gay colleagues say? Laugh, probably. But am I guilty of the same Freudian slip Jamal made above? Of course I am. Fact of the matter is that love stories are boring, mostly. That is my prejudice. I still refuse to see Titanic. The fact that this time it was about two queers in Stetsons is hardly gonna sell it to me.
    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — now that was a great film. It even moved me to tears, I kid you not. Not one love story, but two. But it was much more than that and wasn’t marketed as simply a love story. Boooooooooorrrring!
    So let’s be clear out this: who is doing the politicising here? Methinks it is you frustrated Brokeback bwais who is doing da politicising.
    As for Paradise Now — sounds like an interesting movie. I wouldn’t mind seeing that.

  30. leon — on 7th March, 2006 at 10:02 am  

    Battyman Mountain? How enlightened of you…

  31. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 10:09 am  

    There’s a sandwich shop off the Gray’s Inn Road. It’s run by two gays. Guess what it’s called…

  32. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 10:15 am  

    Butty Boys. It’s good, don’t you think? Coffee ain’t too bad either.

  33. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 10:28 am  

    Leon, as the self-styled Seinfield of the blogging world, I’d be interested to know what kind of insight — you know from your own experiences, growing up in the big city, getting your hands dirty down on the street, run-ins with the law, struggles with money — you might have for thinking Crash was “cheesy” and “pretentious”.

  34. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 10:31 am  

    Macho, machooo man (macho man)
    I’ve got to be, a machooo man
    Macho, machoooo man
    I’ve got to be a macho!

  35. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 10:33 am  

    Ooops. Think #33 should read “since you are the self-styled” not “as the self-styled” (la la la-la-laaaaaaa, i gotta be a macho man….. I want to break freeeeee, I want to mmmmm)

  36. Siddharth — on 7th March, 2006 at 10:36 am  

    I would have prefered Bareback Mountain. ;-)

  37. El Cid — on 7th March, 2006 at 11:24 am  

    A-ha! Well I never… I hadn’t thought about that. No comment. But let’s be clear; choosing a best film wasn’t a science last time I looked. So some form of low-scale prejudice is inevitable and, frankly, no big deal.
    If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, apparently one of the writers of Brokeback reckons the Academy is biased — towards urban movies.

  38. kay — on 7th March, 2006 at 11:37 am  

    Crash was a great film, if not someways predictable and a lil’ corny.
    Brokeback mountain- walked out of the film after 1hr.
    Can’t wait to see Syriana (one of my old uni friend is an extra in the film).
    Movies with such a sensitive nature need to be supported by the academy. Afterall, its in society’s best interest.

  39. Dean — on 7th March, 2006 at 1:03 pm  

    I watched Syrianna yesterday and albeit very technical and west wing political savvy jargon, it was extremely powerful. An very important film - although a little cliched at times, especially with the terrorist subplot of the young, disenchanted youth - about the complexities of what is to be be a human being and the equally complicated politics between countries.

    I’m glad George Clooney won an Oscar for best upporting actor. Like Sunny , I am a great fan of Clooney’s work as of late, and I hope he continues to explore politics through his art. Great actor.

    Political films may not always be great and sometimes a little too evangelical, but they are so important in today’s frustrated climate. It promotes debate and we need more of it.

  40. leon — on 7th March, 2006 at 1:04 pm  

    “Leon, as the self-styled Seinfield of the blogging world, I’d be interested to know what kind of insight — you know from your own experiences, growing up in the big city, getting your hands dirty down on the street, run-ins with the law, struggles with money — you might have for thinking Crash was “cheesy” and “pretentious”.”

    You know nothing of my background and upbringing. I don’t have to justify myself to you but you need to explain your vile language.

  41. Sunny — on 7th March, 2006 at 1:37 pm  

    Political films may not always be great and sometimes a little too evangelical, but they are so important in today’s frustrated climate. It promotes debate and we need more of it.

    Agreed…

    And yes, Crash was corny, that’s the term I was looking for.

  42. El Cid — on 8th March, 2006 at 11:44 pm  

    A little corny… Still a great film, which could open doors for further takes on the theme. There was something.. how you say… refreshingly honest about it

  43. El Cid — on 9th March, 2006 at 12:33 am  

    I don’t need to explain anything Seinfield
    As the great gay icon, Gloria Gaynor, once said — I am what I am. Are you?

  44. El Cid — on 9th March, 2006 at 10:47 am  

    Vile it may be but it does exactly what it says on the tin.
    I’m a titsman myself (even if I’ve lost a stone since Jan and am running the Reading Half-Marathon in April ;) )

  45. El Cid — on 9th March, 2006 at 10:49 am  

    By the way, anyone care to sponsor me? I’m helping with the secondary education of a few bright rural Zambians. I raised £750 in the autumn and got 5 of them doing a year at boarding school, so they’re fed too. Hoping to do the same again. Go on. Just a tenner. or maybe a score.

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