How Hollywood reacts to Gaza: Welcome to the dark side

Published: August 30, 2014
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It was not only because I am a fan of Penelope Cruz. My reaction was because I saw the blatant hypocrisy of this industry that I loved so much. PHOTO: REUTERS

Since the early 20th century, Hollywood has been persistently flourishing and progressing towards better and greater dimensions; shaping filmmaking trends for rest of the world’s leading film industries to follow. One of its achievements remains its ability to manage a global diversity of artists, producers, directors, technical teams, supporting staff and crew members, and how it enables all of them to render their services on the single platform of Hollywood.

This film fraternity has produced a galaxy of legends and stars who have earned intriguing rewards in terms of name, fame, money, career, passion and self-attainment. The lustrous charm of this industry and the overall impact it establishes through the films ultimately enchants viewers globally. Articles by film critics are closely followed, and people love and cherish their favourite artists and their work, whether they hear about it through social media, TV or print.

A tabulated chart at Twitter Counter unveils that out of world’s top 20 Twitter users (who have the highest numbers of followers), 13 are artists. Such facts show just how curious fans are and how much they like to be in touch with their favourite celebrities. Hollywood junkies always want to know what their favourite movie stars are up to, what they are working on, who they are dating, what they will wear at the red carpet and every personal detail that helps them connect better with the stars they see on screen. Hence, the Hollywood ship is sailing smoothly; so far so good.

But how did things go wrong for a follower like me?

Recently, I came across a news headline that not only infuriatingly flabbergasted me but also made me feel torturous paroxysm in my senses. I gazed at the headline which read:

“Hollywood studios blacklist Penelope Cruz over Gaza letter accusing Israel of genocide”.

I was not just angered because I am an ardent fan of Penelope Cruz, but because I saw the blatant hypocrisy of this industry that I loved so much. I couldn’t believe Hollywood’s atrocity. This news reminded me of something I had once read somewhere,

“A panjandrum of the filmmaking industry can make or break a person’s Hollywood career”.

Prior to this news, Oscar award winner, Bardem, and Cruz had signed an open letter speaking against the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army. The letter accused Israel of advancing on Palestinian territories,

“Gaza is living through horror… while the international community does nothing”.

The couple’s letter was signed by 100 leading figures in the film industry, including director Pedro Almodóvar.

However, not everyone in the show business approved and supported this act. Resultantly, this letter created fire in the board rooms of those moronic executives and instigated them to harm the Spanish couple’s film careers. They responded to the letter like this:

  • One top producer, who has worked with Cruz, says he has privately vowed not to hire her again.
  • Another top Hollywood executive also privately expressed his disapproval, saying he’s furious at Bardem and Cruz and he wasn’t sure about working with the couple again.
  • Relativity Media’s chief executive, Ryan Kavanaugh, was the only studio head willing to go public with his views. He said,

“Anyone calling it Israeli ‘genocide’ versus protecting themselves are either the most ignorant people about the situation and shouldn’t be commenting, or are truly anti-Semitic”.

Welcome to the dark side of Hollywood.

For a while I wondered, is this the same old, valued industry where artists from all over the globe converge and work under one shadow, irrespective of their ethnicity, race, religion, culture, nationality or ethos? If the answer is a straight yes, then what were the hidden driving forces which led Hollywood studios to take such a nefarious step? Was there any issue of nationalism against the Spanish couple, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz? No, at least I don’t think so.

This issue was larger than it looked. It stems from religiously discriminatory attitude of a financially and politically powerful Jewish community towards Palestine (Muslims). It’s the influence of the bunch of panjandrums of the industry, more precisely ‘a nest of Hollywood’s vipers’, who have a megalomania mind-set and are gravely powerful; reckoned as the ‘executives’ of Hollywood. It’s sheer hypocrisy when these uncanny executives claim to have moral standards as their actions show otherwise.

Let’s get this ball rolling, as it’s not only Bardem and Cruz who have faced Hollywood’s hypocrisy. Exactly a month ago, renowned female pop grandee, Rihanna, faced a series of fierce criticisms for writing ‘#FreePalestine’ on her Twitter account. She deleted the post eight minutes later. Her post was re-tweeted 7,000 times in this short span of time.

Another very relevant incident to this ensued during the cricket Test series between England and India; when Moeen Ali, an English team player, was chastised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and ultimately barred from wearing a wrist band embossed with the words ‘Save Gaza’.

For a second, let’s side line the argument that the Israelis are in the wrong for illegally occupying lands, blockading Gaza, imposing their will upon the Palestinian people with their superior fire power, and murdering thousands of innocents in the process. No constitution in the world or rules of law can shun a citizen on the basis of his or her freedom to express themselves. Furthermore, it is astounding when such rights are confiscated by those who brag to be the champions of freedom of expression. So you know what I think? I think they are a bunch of fascists, from top to bottom.

Duplicity or hypocrisy, whatever you want to call it; it is undoubtedly yet another huge blockbuster fresh out of Hollywood’s production mafia house. This just goes to show anything they feel will jeopardise their business and the political or financial interests of their lippy lobby, these executives will certainly wipe it out. They are the sole authority in this industry that influence, not only this business, but also perhaps how USA frames its local and foreign policies.

You never know.

Well, on the brighter side, I laud Cruz and Bardem who have, without a doubt, done their best work in Spain where they enjoy ‘artistic integrity’, unlike in Hollywood, where everything is driven by the almighty dollar.

And frankly speaking, I don’t give a damn about the absurd, multithreaded monsters running Hollywood, since whatever they do; they cannot silence the violence so evident in Gaza.

In fact, I will continue my support for the Hollywood celebrities who are not part of the grand hypocrisy. I will revisit Bardem’s super hit movieNo Country for Old Men. Being an old fan and diehard fan of Penelope Cruz, I will revisit my love for her by watching her astute performances in Woman on TopVicky Cristina Barcelona and Vanilla Sky.

And I promise to cheer every run that will come from Moeen Ali’s bat and I will shout in joy at every wicket he takes. I pledge to amplify my woofer’s volume and teach my neighbour what good music sounds like when Rihanna’s, Grammy Award winning number, Umbrella is playing.

I will watch what I want and support those I deem right. I have spoken and I am affirmed to voice my concerns against the violence in Gaza. No one can stop me from doing so and no hypocrite can blacklist me or put me down.

Ammad Azeem

Ammad Azeem

A finance manager at a corporate entity in Kabul. Also, a freelancer writer. Dreams of a stronger, enlightened and modernised Pakistan. He tweets as @Ammad_Azeem (twitter.com/Ammad_Azeem)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.