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‘Valentino’s Ghost’ hits media’s portrayal of Arabs, Muslims


In January Ilisha posted about Valentino’s Ghost: A documentary that explores the way in which Muslims have been portrayed over many years and how US political interests and events in the Muslim majority world have shaped our perceptions of the Muslim ‘other.’ It is now set to be shown across the country. (h/t: Camille)

Review: ‘Valentino’s Ghost’ hits media’s portrayal of Arabs, Muslims

by Gary Goldstein (LA Times)

Writer-director Michael Singh‘s documentary “Valentino’s Ghost” connects the United States’ Middle East foreign policy agenda to the American media’s often negative portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. It’s a provocative, absorbing — and at times dicey — study.

Using film and TV clips plus archival news footage, the India-born Singh ambitiously tracks the on-screen depiction of Arabs starting in the 1920s when Rudolph Valentino melted hearts as “The Sheik” and Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckled his way through “The Thief of Bagdad.” But, he notes, those warm, fanciful portrayals shrank over the years as America’s economic and political interests in the Middle East grew.

According to Singh, specific events accelerated the shift: The formation of Israel in 1948, the 1972 attack on the Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists, the launch of the Arab oil embargo in 1973 and, perhaps most indelibly, the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The filmmaker contends that the U.S. news media has failed to provide sufficient historical, religious or social context for such geopolitical events, thus fostering overwhelmingly harsh attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims.

Interviews with historian Niall Ferguson, author John Mearsheimer, British war correspondent Robert Fisk, the late Gore Vidal and others offer credible support for Singh’s argument that Arabs and Muslims have been excessively portrayed as adversaries and extremists. Several Muslim American comics here provide sharp irony.

Singh also takes to task a wide range of movies, including “Exodus,” “Lawrence of Arabia” and Disney’s “Aladdin” for historical half-truths and skewed storytelling, with intriguing results. But Singh’s critical views on Israel and Washington’s staunch protection of that country’s image will likely set some viewers’ teeth on edge.


“Valentino’s Ghost.” No MPAA Rating. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena.


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  • Seeker

    Around 1.20, that’s telling.
    When and where was it ? Anyone have an idea ?

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    One does not have to visit some mythical sharia law country to comment on and critique the destructive stories of Hollywood.

  • Reynardine

    I did see that “Robin Hood” movie, but truthfully went to almost no movies in those decades. It was on TV that I first noticed this unwholesome trend setting in at the end of theNineties.

    I note that in Margaret At wood’s “Handmaid’s Tale”, the imposition of a Dominionist regime occurred in response to a *faked* Mooslamic terrorist attack.

  • mindy1

    Bahaha I love that 😀

  • Talking_fish_head

    wasn’t the documentary “Reel Bad Arabs” like this?, focusing on the racism and generaization in Hollywood

  • Yausari

    I have high hopes on this y’know? They can’t keep covering up the truth with lies forever.

  • Tanveer Khan

    Lmao. xD Another film to put on my to watch list.

  • Tanveer Khan

    Im thinking of watching it. xD

  • golden izanagi

    while I do like that movie last crusade is my favorite especially with this scene

  • Reynardine

    I’ve not seen it yet, and may never, but I don’t think it was a straight line down. In the Sixties, we had Omar Sharif, a very attractive Arab who didn’t play Arabs; in the Seventies, Sean Connery, a very attractive non-Arab, played a very attractive Arab in “The Wind and the Lion”. I cannot recall a great deal about movies after that, as I seldom went to them, but seem to recall portrayals of Muslims in general becoming far more negative at the end of the Nineties. I suspect we were being prepped in advance for the Bush agenda directly Jeb became governor of Florida, which makes you wonder what the Hell else was being planned in advance, doesn’t it?

  • mindy1

    The truth shall set you free, and shall make the haters nuts

  • mindy1

    I literally just watched that a couple of hours ago XD

  • Tanveer Khan

    Lol at Raiders of the Lost Ark xD

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