Jihad Rehabilitation is a documentary by Meg Smaker, a former firefighter who moved from California to Yemen and then to Saudi Arabia following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After being selected for the Sundance Film Festival in January 2022, both the film and the filmmaker have become pariahs of the elite film industry — largely because Smaker, a white woman, dared to make a film about the Islamic male experience.
“Critics have warned that conservatives may be at a loss for these portraits,” notes New York Times In a recent article with more discussion Jihad Rehabilitationcancellation. “But the attack will come from the left, not the right.”
The film centers on four men accused of terrorism who were held in Guantanamo Bay and later sent to a rehabilitation center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The center’s purpose is ostensibly to deradicalize and reintegrate its involuntary participants. New York Times Describing it as spanning “the unlikely distance between a prison and a boutique hotel”.
This sounds like a fascinating subject for a documentary. According to some critical acclaim, the film forces viewers to consider the humanity of its subjects, even if they are accused of horrific crimes.
“Nowhere is absolutely the richest place for Meg Smack’s new documentary,” wrote protector“What follows is an exciting investment in restorative justice, mind control, and cultural conditioning. This is a film for smart people looking to challenge their preconceptions.”
It’s worth repeating, but the expectation of Smaker and others is that if anyone will find the film offensive, it’ll be a self-proclaimed patriotic conservative who is reluctant to sympathize with so-called jihadists: even those who are underage. those arrested at the time, kept innocent and tortured at Guantanamo Bay.
But conservatives are not canceling Jihad Rehabilitation. Liberals are.
“The bottom line is this,” wrote Lebanese-American filmmaker Jude Chehab comments Jihad Rehabilitation Criticize Sundance for daring to show it. “When I, a devout Muslim woman, say there’s something wrong with this movie, my voice should be stronger than a white woman who says it’s okay. Straight to the point.”
In fact, that’s the visceral part of the flood of criticism Smaker has received: She’s a white woman who made a film about a religion and a culture, not her own. (She lived in the Middle East for many years, immersed herself in the culture, learned Arabic, and had unprecedented access to the people we best try to understand, which apparently made no difference.)
“As an alumnus of the festival and recipient of funding for the Sundance School Documentary Program, I am deeply disheartened,” wrote Assia Boundaoui, another critic.
Of course, it’s okay for someone who doesn’t like a movie to criticize it; cancellation culture doesn’t just happen when one artist criticizes another work of art.controversy surrounding Jihad Rehabilitationas New York Times Tell it, obviously on another level:
More than 230 filmmakers signed a letter condemning the documentary. Most people don’t see it. The letter notes that over 20 years, Sundance has written 76 films about Muslims and the Middle East, but only 35 percent of them have been directed by Muslim or Arab filmmakers.
Sundance noted that 7 percent of the 152 films at the 2022 festival in which directors revealed their ethnicity were Middle Eastern. The percentage of Arab Americans is estimated to be between 1.5% and 3%.
Sundance officials backed down. Tabitha Jackson, the festival’s director at the time, asked to see the detainees’ consent forms and Smeek’s plan to protect them after the film’s premiere, according to an email shown by The Times. Ms Jackson also asked for an ethics review of the plans and gave Ms Smack four days to comply. Efforts to contact Ms Jackson were unsuccessful.
This era Noted that SW Southwest and the San Francisco Film Festival have canceled plans to screen the documentary.
But no one did more damage to it Jihad Rehabilitation Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and member of the Disney family, serves as the film’s executive producer. She initially described it as “remarkable” in excited terms. But then she changed direction, Write a public letter of apology.
“I may not fully agree with all the criticisms of the film, but that doesn’t absolve me of taking seriously the damage I’ve caused,” she wrote. “I now appeal to my colleagues, whether you are gatekeepers, Funders, curators, agency heads, brokers, buyers, critics or other filmmakers, rethink how we all behave when we are blamed for our failures and shortcomings.”
The letter, which (ironically) reads like a transcript of the hostage video, expresses Disney’s promise to “not cause more suffering, even by accident or ignorance.” She apologized for causing “trauma,” saying her ” The bugs are countless, so I can’t declare them in a list, but I’ll try.”
Disney’s apology letter addresses another major criticism aimed at Jihad Rehabilitationthat Smaker’s interviewing practices were unethical because these people were reluctant to participate in the center’s rehabilitation program: they were forced to be there and therefore could not agree to be interviewed.
“I should object to the idea of the main character agreeing to appear in the film,” Disney wrote. “One cannot freely agree to anything in the prison system, especially in a notoriously violent dictatorship.”
This is very unconvincing. On the one hand, Smack tried to talk to 150 different detainees, but only four agreed.if the other 146 said Do notThere is reason to think that these four people say Yes This is done out of a little bit of self-determination. It is also standard practice for journalists to interview prisoners in prison; there is no generally accepted journalistic practice that would suggest that such reporting is unethical.
There is nothing wrong with people of a certain gender or race trying to understand, depict, interpret and create art about foreign groups. There’s a major difference between empowering the voices of marginalized communities to tell their stories and shutting down seemingly well-intentioned efforts like Smaker’s film. los angeles times Media columnist Lorraine Ali subtly highlights this distinction, writing “A film that loses audiences in a controversy like this doesn’t encourage critical thinking about the image of Muslims. It kills it.”
Storytelling that touches on a major political theme will naturally elicit a deeply dissonant response from the audience, if Jihad Rehabilitation Just pissing off some particularly sensitive viewers, the issue is not worth mentioning. But active efforts are underway to not only criticize this art, but also to weed it out of elite discourse. Also note the psychology on display: Smaker is accused of causing harm, anger and trauma. These terms are spreading insidiously and should be scrutinized by all who value true diversity.