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Next Monday, July 14th, on AMC
Filmmaker explores middle eastern religions, culture
By Betsy Levinson / Staff Writer
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Concord filmmaker Charles Stuart spent approximately three weeks in the
Middle East last winter, shortly before the war in Iraq broke out,
making a one-hour television show on the effect of American culture on
the Muslim world.
His work will be aired on the cable American Movie Channel at 10 p.m. on
July 14. He said the channel is "rebranding," incorporating new shows
into its lineup of old movie fare.
Stuart conceived of the film project last fall as an outgrowth of Sept.
11. He had been making shows for AMC about how American culture is
portrayed in Hollywood, including a show on Hollywood "going to war,"
and the effects of 9/11.
He found that America is portrayed in the Arab world as a secular,
violent, and materialistic place, depicting a denigrating view of Arabs.
"I thought I should look at this from the Muslim point of view," said
Stuart before hosting a screening party at his Bradford Street studio.
He said his interest in the Muslim point of view "coincided" with the
AMC documentary series, and he was given the funding to proceed. He
spent a few weeks shooting interviews in Lebanon, Qatar, Iraq and Egypt.
"I was planning to go to Iran and Afghanistan, but then the war broke
out in Iraq," and he had to cut his program short to 50 minutes from its
originally planned hour and a half. He said AMC moved up the air date to
July because of a desire to capitalize on interest in the Muslim world.
The central theme Stuart found is that Arabs "hate our policies, but
love our culture." He said the world of satellite television has
exploded in the Middle East, from one satellite channel in 1990 to over
100 today, including Al Jazeera and a channel owned by Hezbollah, the
anti-Israel terrorist group.
He said strict Muslim censors cannot stop satellite TV from showing
Western shows such as "Friends," "Will and Grace," "The Sopranos," and
"The West Wing." He also talked to an outspoken female talk show host
who, though Muslim, does not shy away from controversial material
because it is what her viewers want. She travels to Hollywood
periodically to buy shows.
"The leaders tried to ban some shows, but they can't control satellite
TV," said Stuart.
In January, before the war, Stuart heard from young people in Cairo that
they liked the culture, even though they felt they were portrayed
unfairly. But since the Iraq war, their hatred of Americans has replaced
some of the previous admiration, even though fallacies about the culture
"Arabs are making things up," he said. "I'm tired of blaming America,
scapegoating America. Let's at least agree on the facts of what really
happened on 9/11 and who was responsible."
Stuart is hoping to make a new documentary series working with Arab TV
journalists. He is tentatively calling it "Real Arabs, Real Americans,"
working in partnership with Zogby International, a polling and public
"We're going to try to break down the stereotypes," he said. He has a
Web site for those interested in the proposed series: www.realarabs.tv.
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