Prior to and during Sunday night’s Academy Awards, Hollywood luminaries were busy patting themselves on the back for their courage in honoring films depicting two gay cowboys as star-crossed lovers, a gay writer as a soulful artist, a transsexual as a responsible parent, a Palestinian suicide bomber as a thoughtful, conscience-driven activist, greedy oil company executives as, well, greedy oil company executives, and Senator Joe McCarthy as (gasp) a threat to American civil liberties. As George Clooney, who had a hand in both the oil-industry-bashing Syriana and the McCarthy-bashing Good Night, and Good Luck, recently noted, “People in Hollywood do seem to be getting more comfortable with making these sorts of movies now. People are becoming braver.”
No doubt about it. Hollywood is now ready to tackle any
subject. With that in mind, I’d like to propose a handful of titles for next year.
Che, the Later Years: Following on the success of The Motorcycle Diaries, this sequel would pick up with Che Guevara’s life after he joined forces with Fidel Castro in Cuba. It would include scenes of Che presiding over firing squads after the overthrow of the Batista government and setting up Cuba’s labor-camp system, which was used to imprison not only enemies of the revolution and political dissidents but homosexuals and (later) AIDS victims. The film would also highlight Che’s literary growth from a casual diarist to a political theorist: “Hatred as an element of struggle, unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine–this is what our soldiers must become . . .”
The Jihad Momani Gesture: The film would cover one week in the life of the unfortunately named Jordanian newspaper editor, who, during the Islamic cartoon riots earlier this year, was fired for reprinting the offending images of Mohammad: “I was trying to calm [the rioters] down,” he explained, “to tell them these cartoons are not the end of the world, that insults have happened before and will happen again. The cartoons are silly. They don’t deserve such an intense reaction.” Two days after his firing he was arrested. He currently faces three years in prison for violating Jordan’s press law, which outlaws insults to Islam.
Brokeback Sharia: This would be a tearjerker about true love in the face of social conformity and family pressure in the grand Hollywood tradition of Titanic and, well, Brokeback Mountain. It would recount the doomed affair of two gay Iranian teenagers who fell in love in the summer of 2005, were arrested by the religious police, then publicly hanged to death for the crime of homosexuality.
The Uneasy Rest of Jesse Dirkhising: A graphic horror film, along the lines of Silence of the Lambs and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it would tell the story of the last hours of young Jesse’s life–a life that ended in September 1999 when he was abducted by two gay men, Joshua Brown, 22, and David Don Carpenter, 38, who drugged the 13-year-old, bound him with duct tape and gagged him with his own underwear, sodomized him with foreign objects, and repeatedly raped him. They administered an enema of Brown’s urine, then took a break and went to the kitchen for sandwiches. The seventh grader stopped breathing while they snacked. He died of suffocation.
Ambush at Gush Katif: This film would dramatize the 2004 roadside attack in Gaza on a car driven by Israeli social worker and expectant mother Tali Hatuel. Two Palestinian gunmen rushed the vehicle and discovered that the driver was a pregnant woman–whereupon they pumped bullets into her stomach and face . . . and then pumped bullets into the face of her 11-year-old daughter . . . and into the face of her nine-year-old daughter . . . and into the face of her seven-year-old daughter . . . and into the face of her two-year-old daughter. The attackers were eventually shot and killed by Israeli soldiers. The next day, two Palestinian organizations, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee, both claimed credit for the attack, and the official Voice of Palestine Radio called it a “heroic operation.” As an epilogue, the film would segue to the funeral for Hatuel and her daughters–which was interrupted when two more Palestinian gunmen, disguised as women, made it to the perimeter of the cemetery and opened fire on the mourners, including women and young children, who were sent scrambling behind parked cars and concrete barriers. Both gunmen were again shot dead by Israeli soldiers on hand to protect the crowd . . . and Islamic Jihad again claimed credit for the incident.
True, none of these films would likely be a runway box-office hit. But that shouldn’t matter to a courageous artist like George Clooney. They’d be truthful. And that’s what really counts, isn’t it?
So how about it George? Ready to break out the checkbook for any of these babies?
–Mark Goldblatt is author of Africa Speaks, a satire of black urban culture.