Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Brotherhoodization of the Opera: Egypt’s Assault on the Arts

Posted by vmsalama on June 7, 2013

By Vivian Salama

The Atlantic

As the curtains swept open on the stage of Cairo’s historic Opera House in late May, spectators held their breath waiting to be regaled by Giuseppe Verdi’s classic Aida, which opens with the Egyptians bracing for invasion by Ethiopians seeking to rescue their princess, Aida, from a lifetime of servitude. What they got, however, may have left Verdi himself on the edge of his seat.

Instead, the cast and crew stood shoulder to shoulder, some in costume, many with placards in hand, denouncing what they called the “Brotherhoodization of the Opera” and declaring the country’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government “illegitimate.” As the crowd shot to its feet cheering “Bravo!” and chanting “Long Live Egypt,” conductor Nayer Nagui announced:

“In a stand against a detailed plan to destroy culture and fine arts in Egypt, we decided as artists and management to abstain from performing tonight’s Opera Aida.”

It was, for artists and art-lovers alike, a declaration of war. (click here to read more)

Posted in Arab Spring, Art, corruption, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Islam, Media, Middle East, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Opera, Politics, Protests, Religion, Television | Leave a Comment »

Saudi Arabia: The Internet’s Enemy Cracks Down on Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber

Posted by vmsalama on March 29, 2013

by Vivian Salama

Mar 29, 2013

The Daily Beast 

Infamous for the severe measures it uses to crack down on alleged security threats, Saudi Arabia is now picking on web-based communication apps, which teens rely on heavily for daily contact. Vivian Salama reports.

Photo by HASSAN AMMARSkype, Whatsapp and Viber are subject to a ban in Saudi Arabia, as it demands the rights to monitor all communications via these web-based communications apps.

Despite a medley of applications now available to help Internet users avert such a ban, the kingdom declared that it would block the services within its borders unless the operators grant the government surveillance rights. The companies have until Saturday—the start of the Saudi workweek— to respond to Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), local news reports said.

While Saudi Arabia is infamous for taking authoritarian measures to crack down on perceived security threats, it has increasingly shifted its attention toward the telecommunications sector in recent months. The CITC announced in September that all pre-paid SIM card users must enter a personal identification number when recharging their accounts and the number must match the one registered with their mobile operator when the SIM is purchased. The country’s second-largest telecom company, known as Mobily, was temporarily banned from selling its pay-as-you-go SIM cards after it failed to comply with the new regulations.

“A proposal for a ban would be driven by political and security concerns as opposed to economic concerns,” said Aiyah Saihati, a Saudi businesswoman and writer. “The Saudi government is refraining from taking an extremely authoritarian style dealing with its critical youth population. Saudi may try, without censorship, to find ways to monitor communications.”

As revolution gripped much of the Arab world in 2011, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, spearheaded a counterrevolution—working to appease its critics with monetary and political concessions, while suppressing protests via brutal crackdowns. Reporters Without Borders lists Saudi Arabia as an “Enemy of the Internet,” saying last year that “its rigid opposition to the simmering unrest on the Web caused it to tighten its Internet stranglehold even more to stifle all political and social protests.” (click here to read more…)

 

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Blackberry, Bloggers, Business, Censorship, dictatorship, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Google, Human Rights, Internet, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Journalism, Kuwait, Libya, Media, Middle East, Oman, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Sexuality, Shi'ite, Skype, Social Media, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Viber, Whatsapp, Women, YouTube | Leave a Comment »

Riot After Anti-Islam Film: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Killed

Posted by vmsalama on September 12, 2012

Only two months ago, Chris Stevens wrote about how the atmosphere in Libya had changed for the better. People were smiling. Vivian Salama reports on the career diplomat killed in Benghazi.

by Vivian Salama  | September 12, 2012

The Daily Beast (click here for original link)

America’s ambassador to Libya, a career diplomat who dedicated much of his life to the Middle East, has died in a rocket attack on the embassy amid violent protests over a U.S.-produced film deemed insulting to Islam. President Obama confirmed the “outrageous” deaths.

United States ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other consulate personnel were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

Chris Stevens, who was appointed ambassador to Libya in May this year, was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack near the consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi late Tuesday night, as were three of his State Department colleagues, according to witnesses and various news reports. In one account, Libya security forces allegedly attacked protesters gathered outside the consulate Tuesday, causing them to clash violently.

Stevens, 52, was a native of Northern California, graduate of the University of California in Berkley, served in the Peace Corps, and taught English for two years in Morocco before joining the State Department. Prior to his tour in Libya, he was the director of the Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs. From 2007 to 2009 he served as deputy chief of mission in Tripoli, Libya. He also served as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council from March 2011 to November 2011. As a member of the Foreign Service, he served in Jerusalem, Damascus, and Riyadh.

The New York Times reports a letter from Stevens to his friends, written only two months ago, after a reception in Tripoli. “Somehow our clever staff located a Libyan band that specializes in 1980s soft rock,” he wrote, “so I felt very much at home.”

He also wrote that the atmosphere in Libya had changed for the better. “People smile more and are much more open with foreigners,” he wrote in a later email. “Let’s hope it lasts!”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it “vicious behavior,” in a statement.  “We are heartbroken by this terrible loss,” Clinton said. A number of Libyans were also reportedly killed in the attacks.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Benghazi and Cairo Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, enraged over a little-known film reportedly produced by Israeli-American Sam Bacile. It is allegedly backed by a handful of ultraconservative Egyptian Christians and Florida Pastor Terry Jones, the controversial preacher whose threats to burn the Quran in 2010 sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan. The film’s trailer, available on YouTube in English and Arabic-dubbed versions, depicts a deranged, womanizing Prophet Muhammad facing a hypothetical trial. Any depiction of the prophet is a violation of Islamic beliefs. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Bacile is in hiding following the backlash to his film, but remained defiant that Islam is a “cancer.” (click here for more…)

Posted in Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Bahrain, dictatorship, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Insurgency, Islam, Jihad, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Protests, Terrorism, United States | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Terry Jones’ Latest Insult? U.S. Embassy Protested Over Anti-Islam Film Promoted by Terry Jones

Posted by vmsalama on September 11, 2012

Chanting protesters attacked the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday, enraged over a film that purportedly insults the Prophet Muhammad—and linked to U.S. pastor Terry Jones. Vivian Salama reports.

by  | September 11, 2012

The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
As Americans commemorated the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Tuesday, protesters in Cairo shredded and burned the American flag and scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy.

At least 2,000 demonstrators, enraged over Innocence of Muslims, a little-known film produced in the United States that allegedly insults the Prophet Muhammad, shouted, “We will sacrifice ourselves for you, Allah’s messenger!” A group of men managed to mount the embassy’s walls waving a black flag with the words “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Many of those gathered did not know the name of the film, nor did they know the details of their grievance against the U.S. pastor linked to it, Terry Jones, whose 2010 threats to burn the Qurantriggered deadly riots in Afghanistan. Similar attacks were reported on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where an American was killed and part of the consulate burned, according to Al Jazeera.

Al-Azhar, one of the Arab world’s most elite centers for higher Islamic learning, reportedly condemned the film on Tuesday, citing a scene in which a character based on the Prophet Muhammad goes on trial. The Wall Street Journal reportedthat Innocence of Muslims’ writer, editor, and producer is a 52-year-old American, Sam Bacile. Jones is promoting the film, whose new 14-minute Arabic-dubbed trailer on YouTube depicts the Prophet as a deranged womanizer calling for massacres.

The organization standupamericanow.orgran a live stream on Tuesday of a press conference featuring Jones in what he dubbed “International Judge Muhammad Day,” during which he listed reasons why, in his opinion, the Prophet should be put on hypothetical trial.

Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet, be it in an illustration or film, to be a violation of Islamic belief. Similar protests were staged outside the Danish Embassy in Cairo and across the Muslim world in 2005 after the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet. (click here to read more…)

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Censorship, Christian, Christianity, Clinton, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Egypt, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Islam, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Qaddafi, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Terrorism, Tunisia, United States | Leave a Comment »

Al Jazeera’s (R)Evolution?

Posted by vmsalama on May 20, 2012

Here’s a study I was pleased to contribute to a new-ish e-zine called Jadaliyya which focuses on Arab affairs.

by Vivian Salama

Jadaliyya (click here for original link)

In March of 2011, an unusually forthright editorial by an anonymous writer made its way into The Peninsula Qatar, an English language daily bankrolled by a member of the emirate’s ruling family. At the time of publication, protesters had already toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings were in full swing in Libya and Yemen, and in the Persian Gulf, Bahrainis were gearing up for what would prove to be a bloody battle, only days after the op-ed ran.

“Businesses and institutions are treated as ‘holy cows,’” the author wrote in the editorial, entitled “Why are we so timid?”

“What essentially ails the Qatari media (English and Arabic-language newspapers) is the absence of a comprehensive law that specifies its role in a clear-cut way and seeks to protect it against the people and interests opposed to free expression or those who cannot appreciate criticism,” the op-ed read.

It was at about the same time that this editorial ran that Al-Jazeera Arabic, the renowned television network that essentially put Qatar on the map, started facing a dilemma. The network has found it increasingly difficult to distance itself from the growing political ambitions of its patron, Qatar, particularly as it is kept alive by the one hundred million dollars it receives annually from the Qatari government. Moreover, the wave of information now available to the masses via the Internet and satellite television has exposed the gaps in its reporting of issues that do not fall in line with the government’s agenda, while also highlighting its biases in the various uprisings. (more…)

Posted in Al Jazeera, American, Arab, Arab Media & Society, Arab Spring, Arabic, dictatorship, discrimination, Dubai, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Journalism, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinians, Politics, Qatar, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

‘Sex and City’ Sequel May Face Abu Dhabi Ban

Posted by vmsalama on May 29, 2010

by Vivian Salama 

click here for story link

May 29 (Bloomberg) — Abu Dhabi is the setting for “Sex and the City 2.” Yet the movie may never be shown there.

The Warner Bros. film, released this week in the U.S., moves its high-rolling stars from New York to one of the richest cities in the world — where it has stirred anger even before the United Arab Emirates censors decide if its sexual content is unacceptable. The first “Sex and the City” film in 2008 was banned for its risque story.

Critics of Abu Dhabi say that censorship makes it unsuitable to become a cultural hub. The emirate produces more than 7 percent of the world’s oil supply and wants to attract art, music, theater and other creative industries to help its economy diversify. The film may help boost tourism at a time when the Abu Dhabi government is aiming to lure 3 million foreign visitors a year by 2012.

“In the Middle East there are three taboos that people don’t talk about: religion, sex and politics,” said Mohammed Aboelenein, chairman of the sociology department at the U.A.E. University in Al Ain, a city in Abu Dhabi. “In the meantime we want our society to modernize. It’s contradictory.”

The new film’s scenes of the stars riding camels through the desert and confronting women in face veils are an injustice to Abu Dhabi’s diversity, said some opponents.

“In most Hollywood films, Arabs are shown either as terrorists or Bedouins,” said Aboelenein.

Sex and the City 2

Arab Stereotype

The film “identifies Abu Dhabi with camels?” asked Jack Shaheen, author of “Reel Bad Arabs,” a book about Arab stereotypes in film and television. “The producers and writers of Sex Inc. grew up with these stereotypes. It’s what they know — the mythology rather than the reality.”

Critics also note that the movie’s “Abu Dhabi” scenes were actually shot in Morocco. The National Media Council, the government body that decides which films are appropriate for viewing, said that it was never approached by the filmmakers about whether they could shoot in Abu Dhabi. A spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said that any talk of a ban on the film was merely speculation when the country had not yet been presented with a copy.

Abu Dhabi television programs and films cut clips showing nudity, physical intimacy, or scenes that are homosexual in nature. The emirate bans art or music deemed offensive to Islam. Popular websites including Skype and Flickr are blocked in most of the country.

Shooting Stars U.A.E., the distributor for all Warner Bros. films in the country, has no knowledge if the movie will be released, Roy Chacra, the company’s general manager, said in a telephone interview.

Bikinis, Bars

Until recently, Abu Dhabi was in the shadow of its less conservative neighbor, Dubai, which built its reputation as a haven for foreigners looking to join the region’s prosperity while embracing more liberal lifestyles. A mere 5-hour drive from the border of Saudi Arabia, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are tolerant to bikini-wearing beachgoers, bars and clubs.

Abu Dhabi last year provided $20 billion in assistance to its neighbor after Dubai World, a state-run holding company, moved to reschedule payment on $26 billion debt.

“Since the economic crisis, the drying up of credit, and the spate of redundancies, both expatriates and nationals have been hurt, and social tensions have increased,” said Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East studies at Durham University in the U.K., who is writing a book about Abu Dhabi.

Kissing Arrest  

Two Britons were arrested in Dubai for kissing in public, after an Emirati woman complained that the display of affection insulted her last November. A teenager in Abu Dhabi who claimed she was gang-raped faced a possible lashing for having sex out of wedlock and she retracted the accusation.

The emirate’s non-oil businesses will contribute 50 percent of its gross domestic product by 2015, adding about $167 billion per year, as stated in its 22-year economic plan.

Abu Dhabi has built a Formula One raceway, and is working on theme parks with companies including Time Warner Inc., Ferrari SpA and MGM Mirage. The government has invested 100 billion dirham ($27.2 billion) for a cultural district on Saadiyat Island, including new branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums.

To contact the writer on the story: Vivian Salama in Abu Dhabi at vsalama@bloomberg.net

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Censorship, Film, Islam, Media, Middle East, New York, Religion, Sexuality, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »

 
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