HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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Hollywood in the Middle East

The secret of making big Hollywood movies involves filming east, the Middle East to be precise. The following movies have one thing in common; they were filmed in the Middle East.

“Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”          (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
“Fast & Furious 7”                                                     (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
“Exodus: Gods and Kings”                                        (Jordan)
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”                     (Jordan)
“The Hurt Locker”                                                      (Jordan)
“Zero Dark Thirty”                                                      (Jordan)
“Fair Game”                                                               (Egypt)

 

Though political and social tensions have “inflamed the region for centuries,” Hollywood has no hesitations in filming abroad. There are huge advantages to both parties, filmmakers receive financial assistance and Middle Eastern countries receive publicity and economic stimulation.

The East mainly supported movie productions to boost their economy, however, it also provided a different outlook for the Western world. The Middle East is usually seen as a war stricken zone, suffering in poverty and unrest. Many aren’t aware of the “dazzling coastline under year-round sunny skies,” the iconic architecture, and ancient deserts. In addition to the multitude of locations, the Middle East also offers tax incentives for Hollywood productions. Israel began “offering better tax breaks, terror attack insurance and credits of up to $400,000” to accurately film movies that are set in Israel.

Financial stimulation is very beneficial for any country, especially for those with wavering economies and unstable governments. Filming provides more money to the state, creates jobs for workers, and production among businesses. The growth can help countries in the Middle East recover damages from wars, political corruption, and civil unrest. This can pave the way towards unity and prosperity.

Baghdad was originally known as a learning center to cultivate ideas, culture, and commercialism. Artists, intellects, merchants, and travelers from around the world would flood the city and share their knowledge and trade. There was a palace, gardens, libraries and schools, After Mongol conquest, the city was destroyed and followed continuous decline with successive empires. Today, Baghdad is commonly tied with terrorism, poverty, and destruction. The world may not even care to look into the causes of the current condition; rather, they’ll rely on media to tell them a summary of the Middle East.

A new source of Middle Eastern knowledge comes by filming more Hollywood scenes in the Middle East. The rest of the world can see what the landscape and cities are like because most of them have probably never visited the Middle East. Movies also provide a different prospective of those countries. News reports in the Western world are usually biased with negative opinions or criticism. Hollywood movies usually display the Middle East for their beaches, architecture and climate; all of which are excluded in news coverage. Movies can showcase the people of the Middle East as individual humans with feelings and emotions; where as the news can categorize the people under one umbrella with one intention. The publicity is important to clear misunderstandings the Western world has about the Middle East. With the attention, they can brand themselves as a tourist destination and increase business revenues.

Hollywood also benefits by filming in the Middle East. They receive appealing tax incentives, financing, and discounts. This is similar to outsourcing the filming to save money. Hollywood is more likely to be interested in the monetary compensations rather than advancing the Middle East economy and enhancing their reputation; however, the business transaction happens to mutually benefit both parties. Hollywood is not desperate for filming abroad because the United States has no shortage of sunny beaches, historical landmarks, and a diverse population. Strictly business endeavors (to optimize revenues) influence producers to film overseas, so as long as hefty packages are presented, Hollywood will continue to support the Middle Eastern economy.

This is a great for improving global relations and promoting cultural awareness. The Western world has opinions about the Middle East, but they are most likely supported by second hand, biased information. Most people learn about the world through the media, however, the media filters their material to promote their company’s and/or government’s political views. By having a separate entity, Hollywood, go into the controversial areas and document it with different perspectives, the Western world can see the Middle East with a different filter, hopefully leading to tolerance and understanding.

 

 

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/12/29/middle-eastern-countries-get-more-attractive-for-hollywood-movie-shoots/

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14 Comments

  1. lmoghimi3 says:

    Showing the real Middle East through Hollywood is definitely a step in the right direction to educate Americans on its rich culture, but Hollywood’s portrayal of the Middle East has often been criticized as bigoted and inaccurate. Films like Rules of Engagement (2000) and 300 (2006), are known for portraying flat, stereotyped versions of Middle Easterners. I also do not know many people who wanted to visit the Middle East after watching The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty. It will take more than a few backdrops for the American public to see the Middle East as something other than a war torn, backwards part of the world. It would require Hollywood to make movies about the culture and people of the Middle East instead of using it as a pretty background or only showing it as the enemy in a war movie.

  2. amiteichenbaum says:

    I didn’t know that many movies filmed in the Middle East! I liked this line: “The publicity is important to clear misunderstandings the Western world has about the Middle East”, because I think it is really true. We base our perceptions on what is presented to us. This past summer, I spent a few weeks in Israel and everyone kept messaging me saying that the news made it look like a war zone. It’s important that we keep in mind how media affects public image!

  3. lmoghimi3 says:

    Showing the real Middle East through Hollywood is definitely a step in the right direction to educate Americans on its rich culture, but Hollywood’s portrayal of the Middle East has often been criticized as bigoted and inaccurate. Films like “Rules of Engagement” (2000) and “300” (2006) are known to portray flat, stereotyped versions of Middle Easterners. I also do not know many people who wanted to travel to the Middle East after watching “The Hurt Locker” or “Zero Dark Thirty”. It will take more than a few backdrops for the American public to see the Middle East as something other than a war torn, backwards part of the world. It would require Hollywood to make movies about the culture and people of the Middle East instead of using it as a pretty background or only showing it as the enemy in a war movie.

  4. Travis says:

    Wow, I had no idea any of those movies were filmed in the Middle East. As soon as I saw “The Fast and Furious” and “Transformers” I was hooked. Now that I think about it, there were some scenes in those movies that should have been dead giveaways that they were filmed in the Middle East, but on a more serious note, I think that filming in the Middle East is definitely a good way to show people that there really is more to the Middle East than they think. It’s always important to research things yourself instead of always conforming to an already formed perspective. However, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who didn’t know that the movies you listed were filmed in the Middle East, so unless people are made aware of that fact, their perspectives, good or bad, may remain unchanged. Also, it was interesting to hear how the filmed movies aid the economy of the Middle East. Usually when a person hears the words “Middle East” and “economy” they immediately think oil, so it’s good that they have another source of revenue. You taught me something new.

  5. jyount6 says:

    It may be true that movie production and filming companies have no hesitation going abroad to the Middle East to film, and they may also receive terror attack insurance, but the average traveler that may actually want to go and experience culture and geography that the region has to offer does not have the luxury afforded to stars and movie crews. I just hesitate to think that movies being filmed in the region are as helpful as they could be.
    The reaction of most people seems to be “I didn’t know that movie was filmed there!” So perhaps that point isn’t getting across well enough. And again we have to remember that like the media, Hollywood also has interests and will not necessarily show the “real” Middle East. Movie makers have intentions and just the act of filming in the Middle East does not mean they are making an effort to educate anyone on the stability of a particular country or area. I won’t go as far as to say that Hollywood is exploiting the Middle East for it’s areas of beauty but I’m also not sure this is what’s best for the average person in the Middle East. It might be a temporary fix for some problems being experienced but it will take far more to incite lasting change in the region.

  6. jackjenkins2015 says:

    I think that the filming of Hollywood movies in the Middle East is an awesome idea. I mean, look at Atlanta: film production here over the past few years has skyrocketed. Movies like The Hunger Games, Anchorman 2, Divergent, and many more have been moving here and doing wonders for Atlanta’s economy and its emergence as a new hub for artists and actors. I think there is a lot more to consider about why they are filming in the Middle East other than just changing people’s perspective about the area. By establishing a real, healthy, and mutually beneficial relationship with the private studios in Hollywood, the Middle East countries have a chance to work with these Americans and establish friendships and trust. This is very different from dealings with Middle Eastern countries and the US in oil, which is constantly contested and causes lots of tension. I think Hollywood in the Middle East is a great chance for our country’s economic and social connection to the region to really expand.

  7. cryan3232 says:

    Movies being filmed in the Middle East offer the opportunity to show a region that is portrayed as in constant turmoil in a different light. However, I think that an issue that occurs with Western movies being set in the Middle East is that they may focus on some people of the region filling the role of villains in the movie. Hollywood tends to create characters that are extreme portrayals of stereotypes. I think that this may open up the possibility of reinforcing a negative perception with which people view the Middle East and could cause more harm than good.

  8. austinsoper says:

    I find it somewhat ironic that Hollywood is the embodiment of everything that Islamic fundamentalists hate about the west, and yet some of the more ostentatious films, like “Fast 7” are being filmed in their homelands. It’s interesting and I am curious to see how the flow of cash differs from country to country; if some leaders simply pocket the money, or if it is funneled into the economy. I am sure that this differs between Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia for instance. Unfortunately, I’d have to agree with Leila on this. Most American films shine a very negative light on the Middle East, hiding the violence and not the often vibrant and beautiful culture. For Americans opinions to change on the subject, Hollywood should turn the spotlight away from terrorism and towards the middle eastern culture and heritage.

  9. mdsmith910 says:

    This is very eye opening, I had no idea that all of those movies were shot in the Middle East. While there seems to be a lot of good that comes from these films being shot there (economic growth, positive worldwide perception, etc.), I wonder how Muslims react to the content of the films. For example, women wearing revealing clothing may come off as disrespectful. All in all, I thought that this was a wonderful post; Very insightful, and it definitely makes me take a step back and reconsider what has been conveyed by the media.

  10. owest3 says:

    Great post! I think it is interesting how movies are being filmed in places that are suggestive to turmoil and war, but yet have no influence on us, the United States. This goes to show yet how different we are to other countries. We are at war with the Middle East, currently with ISIS, but yet, our country still allows trivial things like movies to be made in regions like Jordan. This raises questions like where is the line between economical standings and war?

  11. coreilly says:

    I never viewed filming movies in the Middle East as a mutually beneficial act between Hollywood and the Middle Eastern region. I like your perspective though. It is true that most of the images people have in their minds of the middle east come from the news, therefore they are either war or terrorist based images. But many movies, even old war movies, show the true beauty of the land and the culture. These movies make me want to go visit the region to see its unique landscape. The news, however, makes me never want to go there because it correlates its pictures with violence. I also thought it was interesting that these Hollywood filming companies get tax incentives and discounts to film there. My guess is that has something to do with trying to build relations with that region but either way it’s a great way to spread different images of the Middle East to the American population.

  12. emartin36 says:

    While I do think that, generally speaking, filming on location in the Middle East can certainly be beneficial to those countries and communities, I believe that many of these films may cast a negative light on the region. There are obviously plenty of exceptions, but some movies, typically those depicting war, show the Middle East as essentially a wasteland ruled by terrorist organizations. Military movies such as The Hurt Locker portray the entire region as a place of fear and constant violence. While it is important to display the problems occurring throughout the region, these movies typically do not depict the lives of normal Middle Eastern civilians.

  13. nrassam3 says:

    True that if provides economic simulation and promotes tourism, sometimes it is weakening the image of the countries. In transformers, the Egyptian army and tribes were portrayed as weak and corrupted. Another example, take into example the hurt locker everyone is a terrorist in the movie but the American soldiers are the heroes. The movies never invested into the images of the culture and the traditions of middle eastern countries, but rather to show of the strength of America.

  14. trevormcelhenny says:

    Very interesting post. I also had no idea this many movies were being filmed in the Middle East. However, I do agree with the comments from others that the real benefit from Hollywood movies being filmed in the Middle East will not be fully realized until the people and culture of these countries are shown in a positive light, and not just as the stereotypical villains.

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