Sunday, April 24, 2011

Only in The Australian 2

Murdoch's Australian, the corporate media's prime purveyor of propaganda, disinformation and spin on the Middle East in this country, can't even be relied on to properly critique a book or a film on the subject.

First we had the spectacle of one of its book reviewers, who, despite reviewing a book devoted solely to a study of the British government's infamous 1917 Balfour Declaration, quoted the wrong document. (See my 12/4/11 post Only in The Australian)

Now we have its film reviewer, Evan Williams, who, after reviewing a film on sectarian warfare in the Middle East, can't get the sectarian identity of the main character right.

The film in question is the extraordinary French-Canadian production Incendies (scorched), set in an unnamed Arab country (obviously Lebanon) during a vicious civil war.

Williams refers to its Christian protagonist, Nawal Marwan, as "a Muslim woman."

He also refers to "[o]ne dreadful scene... [which] shows Christian troops ambushing a bus on a desolate stretch of road and massacring the passengers."

The irony is that it is precisely in this scene that Narwal Marwan's Christian identity emerges most strongly.

Against a background of civil strife, with a clear Muslim/Christian sectarian dimension, Narwal sets out to find the son taken from her years earlier as a baby. Around her neck, clearly visible, is a cross. Trudging along a desolate stretch of road, she sees a bus off in the distance. Sensing that its passengers are Muslims, she hurriedly removes her cross and converts her scarf into a head covering before flagging down and boarding the bus. The bus is eventually stopped at a checkpoint manned by Christian militia, obviously modelled on Lebanon's Phalangists. They shoot the driver and riddle the vehicle with machine gun fire, killing everyone but Nawal, another woman and her young daughter, who have somehow escaped the bullets by laying on the floor of the bus. The gunmen then douse the bus with petrol and set fire to it. Nawal and the others crawl towards the door of the bus. Pulling out her cross, she holds it up and screams out that she's a Christian. Before leaving the bus, which has begun to burn, and knowing that the other woman, as a Muslim, is doomed, she grabs the woman's daughter and runs with her towards the militiamen, screaming 'My child, my child'. The child, however, breaks free and, as she runs back to her mother on the bus, is shot in the back. The gunmen then withdraw, leaving a traumatised Nawal on her hands and knees, framed by the inferno of the burning bus. Seared by the horror and senselessness of the crime she's just witnessed, Nawal will later perpetrate an act of vengeance against the Christian warlord responsible.

So where was Williams through all this? Half asleep? Out for a pee?

He's lucky the director, Denis Villeneuve, lives in Quebec.

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