Jafar Not Aladdin’s Only Dark Side

Islamic Studies professor Dr. Betül Basaran discussed the mischaracterization of Arabs in Disney’s “Aladdin” with students. The movie was shown Wednesday, February 11 Cole Cinema as a part of The Other Side of Disney Movies series.

The movie, which originally debuted in 1992, quickly became a hit, bringing in over $217 Million in the US and more than $507 million worldwide. The movie takes place in fictitious, Middle Eastern city of Agrabah, where protagonist, Aladdin, fights for the city’s princess, Jasmine, as well as to prevent a plot conceived by the King’s Grand Vizier, Jafar, to become King himself.

Despite the popularity of the movie, Disney ended up releasing the movie with several changes after the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) boycotted the movie.

The Committee’s biggest concern with the movie was the first line of the movie’s opening song, which originally said, “Oh, I come from a land, From a faraway place, Where the caravan camels roam, Where they cut off your ear If they don’t like your face, It’s Barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

In the re-release of the movie, Disney dubbed the opening line to change it to say, “It’s flat and immense, and the heat is intense. It’s barbaric, but hey’ it’s home.” Although it’s an improvement, Marvin Wingfield of the ADC in a 1995 newsletter article said that “problems remain” with the movie.

Professor Basaran agreed. She pointed to the movie’s contrast of the “good guys,” Aladdin and Jasmine, as light skinned with no accent and the “bad guys” with darker skin, dirty clothes and heavy accents as “an unfair stereotype of dirty Arabs.”

Basaran went on to ask that “while some might brush it off as a cartoon, how many kids watched [Aladdin] and formed stereotypes? Doesn’t Disney have an obligation to do better?”

First-year Keith [last name withheld] agreed and said that, “until middle school, that’s what [he] thought Arab culture was.”

Senior Rawle Lucas points to Disney’s change of the location—from Baghdad, as was originally proposed, to Agrabah—as a sign that filmmakers did not intend for the cartoon to be taken as a serious cultural statement.

“They purposely did not portray the time period [or culture] seriously by taking it out of context,” Lucas said.

“That’s a perfectly valid argument, but the movies are a stepping stone to a larger conversation.” according to junior Sara Metz, who is the chair of the Program Board’s Multicultural Committee and organizer of The Other Side of Disney Movies Series.

Metz, who very much likes many of Disney’s movies, is concerned that when “people grow up watching these movies they are instilled with certain stereotypes.” It was this concern as well as the desire to “combine what people like with a discussion of the stereotypes portrayed” that inspired her to organize the series.

The next movie in the series will be “Hercules,” which will air Wednesday February 25th in Cole Cinema, and will be followed by a discussion with Linda Hall, Associate Professor of History. Other movies in the series will include “Mulan”, “Pocahontas” and “The Lion King.”

“Hill House” A Campy Romp Through Great Gore, Gritty Music, Bad Editing

“Hill House” is an entertaining and campy film, but it also addresses more serious issues such as manipulation and guile. The film was written and directed by senior Ciaran Stone and stars Kyle Clothier, Kiki Possick, Max Heaton, and Morgan Brown, and was screened in Cole Cinema on Feb. 15th and 22nd.

The movie follows a crew of student filmmakers as they travel to film their zombie-infested world and attempt to get footage that will make them famous. The film team is sent to a house on a hill where they encounter flesh-hungry zombies, all the while dealing with internal group conflict. Disagreements result in their endangerment. Rash decisions in zombie films do not lead to positive results.

The plot in “Hill House” feels reanimated: it is a plot about college kids messing up when dealing with a dangerous zombie apocalypse. The dialogue is a little stiff too, but lends itself well to the campy-ness of the film. There are a few drawn-out scenes, when it seems as if there should be some sort of action. In one scene, the film crew is standing while the doors to the house are swinging open and closed. It did create tension at first, but it soon became monotonous without any further action. The scene could have been shot with fewer shots of the swinging doors. Also, later in the movie when the main character gets ripped in half the same thing happens – it gets repetitive. The basic understanding that he is in a lot of pain comes across in the first few shots of him getting mauled, and after that the shock factor wears off.

The characters could have used a little more emotion, especially when friends died or when they were trying to escape. The amount of fear and hysteria was not necessarily consistent with the situations. There was more emotion in arguing about picking up camera equipment than there was about seeing a best friend get ripped in half. Which is a shame, because the gore and blood were very well done. When a neck was gnawed upon or when muscle was masticated, it was gross. It seemed very realistic and there was a lot of attention to detail. The death scenes: shootings, chewings, and rippings were easily nausea-inducing and certainly made the audience uncomfortable.

The soundtrack, recorded by alumni Trevor Shipley and junior Rich Kolm, also fit the film’s gritty feel. The low-fi electric guitar and bass did a nice job setting the mood of inescapable, impending, brain-chewing doom.

This production did not shy away from exploring more serious moral ambiguities or exploitation issues that were interwoven throughout. For example, when would it be okay to sacrifice another human being? What does or should it cost to promote yourself? How far are you willing to go to get what you want? “Hill House” asked the audience these tough questions, but didn’t give answers. It showed what the characters in the film did, mainly using others for their own benefit, but that didn’t turn our too well for any of them. In an interview with Stone, he said the movie has a “fairly moral tone…definitely a lot to say about people who take advantage of each other.”

Overall, the movie was entertaining, gruesomely gory, and thought- provoking.

Zombie Flick to be Screened in Cole

“Hill House,” St. Mary’s first student-produced zombie movie opens in Cole Cinema for two showings this month, playing Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 at 8:30 p.m.

The film was written and directed by Ciaran Stone, and shot last semester at the off-campus house known as hill house from which the film takes its name.  Formerly titled “Of the Dead,” the name was changed due to copyright issues. Starring Kyle Clothier, Kiki Possick, Max Heaton, and Morgan Brown, the film was shot in black and white and is slightly longer than 30 minutes.

The showing on Feb 22nd will be a red carpet event. Stone will be wearing a tuxedo and the cast and crew are planning to dress up for the evening. Viewers are encouraged to dress up.

The cast and crew are especially proud of their work.

“I was really really impressed with the final product,” said Max Heaton. “It’s the only thing I’m proud of from last semester.”

Heaton said his favorite part is the sound track, recorded mostly all in one sitting by alumnus Trevor Shipley.

Shooting saw its share of challenges. According to Kiki Possick, getting everyone organized was the biggest challenge. “You know we’re all still students,” added Max Heaton. Another challenge was special effects for blood and gore, which were created using a combination of, among other materials, oatmeal, chocolate syrup, and condoms filled with blood.

During the filming of one scene, the corn fields were in the process of being harvested. “It was never really distracting, it was just kind of a nuisance,” said Kyle Clothier. The crew had to time the shots as to not have harvesters in the background of the scene.

One thing the cast is particularly proud of is the make-up, provided by Liz Gossens. “My favorite was getting the bite mark on my leg. It was latex, toilet paper, and make-up paint,” said Kiki Possick, “I was so proud I left it on all day.”
Despite challenges, the cast and crew had fun making the movie. Possick added that “you can never take yourself too seriously when making a zombie film.”

TFMS Film Series: “Outing the Home Movie: From the Backyard to the Big Screen”

TFMS’s Second Annual Film Series will explore how home movies inflect issues of gender in narrative, experimental, and documentary film. Internationally acclaimed, award-winning filmmakers Michelle Citron, Daniel Reeves, and Jennifer Hardacker will be joined by film scholars and archivists Patricia Zimmermann and Pamela Wintle to screen and discuss a variety of work that incorporates home movie footage. Topics include gender and family relationships, war and masculinity, and the home movie as sociohistorical document.
Screenings begin at Cole Cinema on Feb. 2nd and last until the 23rd in weekly Monday screenings beginning at 8p.m. Screenings are free and open to the public.

Patricia Zimmermann and Pamela Wintle:
Monday, February 16

Zimmermann and Wintle will present “Mining the Home Movie,” a program exploring the social, regional, national, textual, and historical meanings of home movies through screenings selected from the archival collections from the Human Studies Film Archives of the Smithsonian Institution and Northeast Historic Film in Maine.
Patricia Zimmermann is professor in the Department of Cinema, Photography and Media Arts at Ithaca College, and is the author of numerous books, including Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (1995), States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies (2000), Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (2008), and the forthcoming Public Domains: Cinemas, Histories, Visualities, a work that explores the relationship among historiography, political engagements, and digital art practices.
Zimmermann has delivered invited lectures and plenary addresses across the globe and throughout the United States. Currently, she serves on the editorial boards of the journals Wide Angle, The Journal of Film and Video, The Sixties, and The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists and as co-director of the week-long multimedia inter-arts festival, the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.
Pamela Wintle is the senior film archivist for the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) in the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and founding board member of Northeast Historic Films (NHF), a regional moving image archives located in Bucksport, Maine. The HSFA collects, preserves, and makes accessible moving images and associated materials that document the world’s cultures and the history of visual anthropology. NHF collects, preserves, and makes accessible moving images of northern New England.

Jennifer Hardacker: Monday, February 23

A self-described experimentalist and structuralist who has worked professionally as an editor and assistant editor of television commercials, short films, and music videos, Jennifer Hardacker has been making short films and videos for over 13 years. Her work ranges from animation and abstraction to the personal essay and the home movie, and has been shown in festivals across the United States and Canada. Hardacker’s films are often personal in nature and are interested in re-imaging and re-imagining the meaning and context of images.
Hardacker currently teaches film and video production and studies at Pacifica University in Oregon.
For the film series, Hardacker will screen and discuss three experimental works—Ghost Stories, 24, For Summers to Come—and a work-in-progress, Nightgardener.
-Submitted by Mark Rhoda