The Middle East at the Oscars!

by Natasha Turak on February 28, 2013

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“Best Picture” winner, Argo, directed by Ben Affleck

I loved watching the Oscars this year with all the Middle East-related movies. Not only does the region lead our headlines, but it seems to dominate our pastimes as well. Several films and documentaries on Middle East themes garnered attention at this year’s Academy Awards. Read on and enjoy the shows!

  • Argo, Academy Award Winner for “Best Picture”, is an absolute MUST-SEE! Riveting from beginning to end, it tells the incredible true story of the rescue of six U.S. hostages in Iran in 1979 after the takeover of the U.S. Embassy. The Americans were taken in by the Canadian ambassador and fled the country in an incredulous plot to disguise the group as Hollywood filmmakers making a movie in Iran. President Jimmy Carter in a recent CNN interview lauded the film but took issue with its emphasis on the CIA’s role in the plan/operation, which he says in reality was 90 percent Canadian.
  • Zero Dark Thirty, Academy Award nominee for “Best Picture,” features a CIA analyst’s obsession with finding Osama Bin Ladin, and the hurdles she must overcome in doing so, such as tracking an elusive target, acquiring information from reluctant detainees, bureacratic intransigence and lack of support, and operating in a hostile environment. Despite the reviews, I found the movie’s portrayal very realistic of targeting challenges and reminiscent of many of my experiences in Iraq.
  • 5 Broken Cameras, Academy Award Nominee for “Best Documentary,” records five years (and five broken cameras) in a village in Palestinian West Bank, focusing on the non-violent protests and realities of Israeli occupation, as seen largely through the eyes and the effect on the filmmaker’s son and the next generation.
  • The Gatekeepers, Academy Award Nominee for “Best Documentary”, centers on the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet, as told through interviews with its six former leaders. A New York Times film critic called it “essential, eye-opening viewing if you think you understand the Middle East.” And I would wager it’s even more eye-opening if you don’t understand the region! Find Al Jazeera stories and interviews on the two documentaries here.

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