Documentary Screenings: The Attack of the Drones & Reel Bad Arabs

Please join us for this month’s educational meeting featuring the screening of two films.

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (50 minutes)

This groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged from the earliest days of silent film to today's biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Featuring acclaimed author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs –– from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding "terrorists" –– along the way offering insights into the origin of these stereotypical images, their development at key points in U.S. history, and why they matter so much today. Dr. Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to desensitize and “naturalize” prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture.

Shaheen inspires critical thinking about the consequences of these Hollywood caricatures, and he challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture. He reveals that a number of these films have been made with the cooperation of the Department of Defense.  (The recent Hollywood film “Zero Dark Thirty” is a prime example of the use of theatrical films to further instill fictitious official narratives into the minds of the American public.)

Most of us in modern America understand that stereotypes are morally wrong and simply not truthful, but stereotypes take a long time to wither away. Often we find them comfortable, and we resist adjusting our perceptions of a people who have been maligned. We (and Hollywood) have, nonetheless, corrected our stereotype of Jews, Afro-Americans, and Native Americans, among others.

Our hats are off to Dr. Jack Shaheen who continues this consciousness-raising American tradition. In the last segment of this documentary Shaheen talks about several recent films that begin to break down the stereotypes. He ends with an expression of hope in young, creative filmmakers who are moving beyond the stereotypical and bigoted depictions from Hollywood.

... A skillfully articulated and illustrated explanation of how Hollywood and the mass media stereotypes 1.6 billion Muslims by depicting them as Arab terrorists. The documentary earns a 9.6 on a scale of 10 for meeting or exceeding multicultural educational standards in terms of expressing social conditions, engaging dialogue, self-reflection, transformational education, and the mechanics of cinematography, pacing, sound, music, and editing.
- International Journal of Multicultural Education

Washington and Hollywood spring from the same DNA. Jack Valenti, Former President and CEO of Motion Picture Association of America



Attack of the Drones

The U.S. military’s increasing dependency on drones –– also known as “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAVs) –– to continue its so-called “war on terror” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, and other places is turning controversial as evidenced by the international reaction to the ongoing drone missile strikes in those countries.

However, President Obama’s administration is undeterred, favoring the technology because it reduces the need for American troops in those countries and the risk of politically unpalatable U.S. casualties.

But the use of aerial drones is giving rise to concerns that these attacks are becoming just a big computer game, in which "desk pilots" sitting at computer consoles in air-conditioned rooms (located on military bases within the U.S.) far from the battlefield can easily kill so-called “enemy combatants” and then go home to their families, remote from the human consequences of their actions and spared the anguish of knowing he or she personally was responsible for civilian casualties, many of whom are children and women.

Also controversial is the use of these drone strikes to assassinate suspected “terrorists” and individuals on Obama’s kill list –– without charges or trial –– including U.S. citizens, as well as the traumatic psychological effects on the civilians living under these drones, which are flying constantly overhead at all times of day and night.

Forty countries are believed to be working on drones. Development trends include law enforcement, spy drones that can see through walls, drones that can operate in a swarm, and drones to be used in building construction. In Zurich, Switzerland, scientists have been developing small flying robots that work as a team at an impressive speed to lift heavy concrete blocks into place on a complex tower structure – a process that would otherwise necessitate scaffolding and dozens of human workers.

This technology gives rise to worrisome questions about invasion of privacy – and not merely because of the actions of government. With private companies in the U.S. and Europe now developing cheap aerial drones that can be controlled with the kind of software used in smart phones, pilotless aircraft just a couple of feet across may soon be commercially available for a few hundred dollars. Imagine, then, the images that a paparazzi photographer could obtain with a camera drone able to fly over high walls or hover outside windows set atop a multistory building.

This film, from Dutch filmmakers Vincent Verweij, Fred Sengers and KRO, looks at the development and use of these extraordinary machines and asks where their use might lead.

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GRAND JUNCTION

When: Saturday, March 23, 9:30 – 11:30 AM

Where: Beans About Beans, 759 Horizon Drive (located by Enzo’s Pizza, across from Grand Vista Hotel), Grand Junction, CO (Map)

Program: Details can be seen at  http://www.meetup.com/GrandJunctionInfoCinema/events/107889572

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