‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting

Olivia Munn is set to play the lead in feature drama “Aleppo.” (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 September 2020

‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting

  • ‘The Newsroom’ actress Olivia Munn selected to star in drama ‘Aleppo’
  • Many online users are concerned that the film will center on a Western journalist, while the Syrian refugee will simply be seen as an extra

DUBAI/LONDON: “What is a UN journalist?” asked the Twitterverse on Friday after the announcement came that actress Olivia Munn would be playing a UN reporter alongside a Syrian refugee in the feature film titled “Aleppo.”

It’s been announced that US actress Olivia Munn is set to play the lead in the feature drama, a story about a Syrian refugee and UN journalist (Munn), who are brought together by their escape from war-afflicted Syria. 

Many online users are concerned that the film will center on a Western journalist, while the Syrian refugee will simply be seen as an extra - given that the job of a UN journalist simply does not exist and will ironically be played by an actress known for her role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s hit show “The Newsroom.”

“Jesus Christ. Firstly, there’s no such thing as a ‘UN journalist’; secondly there was no UN in those last terrifying months of Aleppo, and the only journalists around were Syrians,” Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill tweeted.

“How any film about Aleppo can centre anyone but brave Syrians is insane. Who writes this s***?”

Nada Homsi, a Beirut-based Syrian reporter and producer for NPR tweeted: “Hello Hollywood I’m Syrian and a journalist and would love to become a movie star, so would many other Syrians, also ‘UN journalists’ aren’t a thing. Hire us!”

Others weren't pleased with Munn’s casting, and have taken to social media to express their discontent.

“The onslaught on Aleppo was one of the most traumatic events for Syrians in Syria and for the diaspora,” wrote one user on Twitter following the news. “Spinning the tragedy to center it around some hypothetical journalist for a Westerner to star in is disgusting,” they added.

Another user wrote: “Oh yay a ‘Syrian refugee drama’ that is actually about a white lady. Just what we need, another white savior movie.”

“Just call it ‘The White Savior,’ why muck about?” added another.

“Aleppo,” which is currently in pre-production in Los Angeles, will be directed by Brazilian filmmaker David Schurman.

The casting of the Syrian starring character has yet to be announced.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, many films and documentaries have been made about the tragedy, including “For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab’s critically-acclaimed documentary.


Frankly Speaking: Arab News premieres first talkshow with former PM of Pakistan

Updated 28 November 2020

Frankly Speaking: Arab News premieres first talkshow with former PM of Pakistan

  • Hosted by veteran journalist Frank Kane, program will interview movers and shakers, world policymakers
  • Each episode of the program is 20 minutes, with occasional additional reporting and interviews to be included throughout

LONDON: Arab News, the region’s leading English-language Middle East newspaper, is proud to announce its latest video product: “Frankly Speaking,” a recorded show that will interview and challenge movers and shakers, world policymakers and influential deciders on topics relating to the Arab world.

Hosted by veteran, award-winning journalist and senior Arab News business columnist, Frank Kane, who has interviewed influential business leaders and key politicians from around the world including Emirati tycoon, Khalaf Al-Habtoor, president of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Borge Brende, and Anthony Scaramucci, the former communications adviser to US President Donald Trump.

Each episode of the program is 20 minutes, with occasional additional reporting and interviews to be included throughout.

 

 

“Frankly Speaking” will be available on Arab New’s YouTube channel and on the program page on the Arab News website.

Commenting on the launch, Arab News Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas said: “As the leading English language news source on Saudi Arabia and Middle East, it was only natural for Arab News to expand its video offering and we are very proud to present 'Frankly Speaking' as our first product for our followers worldwide.”

“While editorial integrity can only be proven, the combination of the credibility of both the Arab News brand and the long experience and interview style of Frank Kane will ensure that each episode provides an intellectually stimulating debate and plenty of material for further discussion,” he said.

 

 

The first episode of “Frankly Speaking” launches on Saturday at 5 p.m. Riyadh time (2 p.m. GMT) and will feature former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who will talk about his own recipe for change in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s reforms, the difference between Islamabad’s relationship with Iran and with Saudi Arabia, as well as his views on Israel.