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Accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ over documentary lead film festivals to avoid movies that might enrage Leftists

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As I explained in an article when this controversy began, “Jihad Rehab” endeavors to show how poor jihad terrorists imprisoned at Guantánamo are the good guys, and the U.S. government is the real terrorist entity. But even though it reflected reliably Leftist views, “Jihad Rehab” was still not acceptable to the victimhood propaganda industry. As I have pointed out many, many times over the years, any negative presentation about jihad violence or Sharia oppression, or even one such as “Jihad Rehab” that some might perceive as negative if they tilt their head sideways and squint really hard, will be condemned as “Islamophobic.” The only narrative allowed in mainstream American culture today is that jihad violence has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, and that any opposition to it is “racist” and “Islamophobic” and must be condemned, and that Muslims are innocent victims of American oppression, always and in every case, without exception or any kind of shading.

The same censoriousness is poisoning the entire film industry.

“Why Film Festivals Are Steering Clear of Controversial Movies,” by Tatiana Siegel, Variety, January 18, 2023:

In February 2022, a battle was brewing between two Sundance factions over the documentary “Jihad Rehab,” a film that earned critical raves during its run at the virtual festival a month earlier but was being targeted by a small group of vocal detractors. The two sides — festival programmers and non-programmers — converged to discuss the spiraling controversy over the Meg Smaker-helmed film, which depicts a handful of Guantanamo detainees who have been released from the U.S. prison into a 12-month Saudi de-radicalization program.

Sources describe a knockdown, drag-out showdown between programming director Kim Yutani, defending the film, and some members of the institute, who hadn’t watched “Jihad Rehab” but wanted to placate those outraged over its inclusion in the lineup. The film’s critics took aim at Smaker, namely for being a non-Arab director and potentially endangering the film’s subjects while reinforcing stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists. Their voices drowned out those who championed the doc, including Los Angeles Times critic Lorraine Ali, who is Muslim, and influential former imam Jihad Turk.

Days after the Sundance showdown, institute CEO Joana Vicente and then-festival director Tabitha Jackson took the unusual step of apologizing that the film “hurt members of our community.” Other festivals — including SXSW — followed Sundance’s lead and rescinded their invitations. The once-promising doc was suddenly “radioactive,” as Smaker recalls.

“Sundance is considered a leader in our industry,” Smaker adds. “But when they started getting dragged through the mud on Twitter, instead of supporting a film slash filmmaker they chose to program, they threw that film and everyone involved with it under the bus to save their own ass.”

For many in the indie film world, the drama surrounding “Jihad Rehab” (now titled “The UnRedacted”) marks a new status quo. Consider that just nine years ago, Sundance debuted the Gitmo-set Kristen Stewart starrer “Camp X-Ray,” directed by non-Arab filmmaker Peter Sattler, without a peep. But now, everything is being placed under a “microscope of scrutiny,” says veteran film finance attorney Marc Simon, who observes: “These are complicated times.”

In fact, that quick-to-capitulate reflex 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.

Terracino, a one-name indie director with an A-list festival pedigree, has also been on the wrong side of the simmering culture wars on the circuit. In late 2021, he took a rough cut of his latest narrative feature, “Waking Up Dead,” to some of the major festivals that have shown his work in the past. Having directed the only SAG-cleared microbudget film in Los Angeles during the height of the COVID pandemic in fall 2020, Terracino figured he would be embraced with open arms. The film, which stars Gabriel Sousa and Traci Lords, had even secured distribution before bowing via Breaking Glass Pictures.

“But that’s when the ‘woke’ pushback began,” he says of festival organizer resistance. “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.” He says he was also asked: “‘Why does your Latino lead have to bond with a white woman?’ I was really taken aback by that one. Here I am, a gay Latino filmmaker, and I have to answer about bullshit racial politics?”…

“You can sense the fear out there among the festivals. They are terrified to show a film that someone may object to,” he adds. “A programmer at a Latino film festival told me, ‘If just one person objects to your film, I can lose my job.’”…

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