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Film Festivals Now Afraid to Showcase Films That Might Anger the Woke

FRONTPAGE MAGAZINE - Robert Spencer - JAN 24, 2023


The Stalinization of the wonderful world of cinema.


Fresh evidence that the Left is totalitarian and brooks no dissent from its agenda comes from the wonderful world of cinema. Film festivals in general have been fairly far to the Left ever since they began operating, but now they’ve become positively Maoist in their determination to march in lockstep with the woke agenda. The hardening comes as a result of a dutifully Leftist film unexpectedly becoming the target of the woke guardians of acceptable opinion, and consequently savaged and destroyed. Now the film festivals have been put on notice: no ideological deviation, even of the smallest kind, is allowed.


This has been no trivial shift. In fact, it has been so conspicuous that even Variety, always a reliably Leftist organ, took note of it Wednesday in a lengthy piece entitled “Why Film Festivals Are Steering Clear of Controversial Movies.” Variety explains that the new rush to ideological conformity began with the controversy in early 2022 over a documentary film called Jihad Rehab at the Sundance Film Festival. The film “earned critical raves during its run at the virtual festival a month earlier but was being targeted by a small group of vocal detractors.”

Those detractors insisted that Jihad Rehab, which “depicts a handful of Guantanamo detainees who have been released from the U.S. prison into a 12-month Saudi de-radicalization program,” was “Islamophobic” and thus should not have been showcased at Sundance (or anywhere else, for that matter). This charge was odd in light of the fact that the film’s director, Meg Smaker, explained that the whole idea was to make the audience sympathetic to the terrorists: “What we intended in the film was that these three guys’ personal journeys are going to challenge audiences’ stereotypes about who these men actually are. Hopefully it takes away the simplistic stereotyping and gives their lives value that they haven’t seemed to have before in our national narrative.”

Smaker added, “The film was crafted so that it’s not just a journey for these men. It was intended as a journey for the audiences who see it.” A journey to Leftism and anti-Americanism: “I knew that the alt-right in the U.S. were probably going to come after us, and I’m sure they still will.” She explained that the “horror” of Guantanamo was “essentially what the film is about.” The film uses the word “terrorist” of its subjects, but only in order to “invert its meaning.”

That means that the terrorists were the good guys, and those fighting the terrorists were the real terrorists. This sounded like a film that the Sundance audience would love, but it was attacked “on social media for the fact that the film calls the men ‘terrorists’ and because Smaker herself is not Muslim.” Also, “some Muslim critics noted that the use of the word ‘Jihad’ in the film’s title misappropriates the term despite its wider meaning in Islam.” Variety adds that the film’s critics trotted out a familiar Leftist trope, claiming that the film was “potentially endangering the film’s subjects,” while also “reinforcing stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists.”

Sundance CEO Joana Vicente and then-festival director Tabitha Jackson caved, apologizing to the mob for showing the film. Other festivals then dropped it as well. Variety says that “the once-promising doc was suddenly ‘radioactive,’ as Smaker recalls.” And now, “the drama surrounding ‘Jihad Rehab’ (now titled ‘The UnRedacted’) marks a new status quo.” The indie film industry is now dominated by a “quick-to-capitulate reflex” that “underscores a new, unspoken modus operandi in which festivals — once the bastion of provocative, button-pushing fare — are desperate to avoid controversy and the wrath of any identity-focused Twitter mob.”

An indie director who goes by the single name Terracino also ran afoul of the woke mob with his new film, Waking Up Dead, which film festival organizers wanted nothing to do with. Terracino explains, “My gay lead character [is initially] transphobic, which is something I wanted to explore — transphobia within the gay community — and they had an issue with that. They were scared to show a film with a transphobic lead.” Film festival organizers also asked him, “Why does your Latino lead have to bond with a white woman?” Terracino adds, “I was really taken aback by that one. Here I am, a gay Latino filmmaker, and I have to answer about bulls**t racial politics?”

One programmer explained, “You can sense the fear out there among the festivals. They are terrified to show a film that someone may object to.” Another added, “If just one person objects to your film, I can lose my job.”

The chickens have come home to roost. Leftists have been demonizing and ostracizing patriots for years, and getting cowardly conservatives to go along with shunning them. But now they have turned on each other. In the end, the revolution always eats its own.

 
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 26 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest books are The Critical Qur'an and Who Lost Afghanistan?. Follow him on Twitter here, and like him on Facebook here.


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