In 2012, acclaimed American T.V. show Homeland depicted Lebanon’s vibrant Hamra area (pictured) as war-torn with terrorists and militants running around, destruction everywhere, and bombings and killing happening around every corner. The incident fueled a campaign against the show and the Lebanese government went as far as trying to take legal action against the producers of the hit series.
Fast-forward to 2018, and we are met with Beirut, a political thriller starring Jon Hamm as a former US diplomat who returns to Beirut in the 80s to save a colleague, and Rosamund Pike as the CIA agent charged with the task of protecting him. While the people of Lebanon were hopeful that the portrayal would be a sincere one when the news broke out, the trailer seems to prove otherwise already.
Shot in Morocco, the landscapes featured tell nothing of Beirut and are kept generic enough to be vague. Of course, one would have to watch the film before making any conclusive statements, but for a film with a setting seemingly important enough to claim the title, it’s strange that the trailer would fail to at least establish that.
Besides this, some of what is said in the 2-minute trailer will raise eyebrows (“Two thousand years of revenge, vendetta, and murder…welcome to Beirut”), inviting even more doubts about the historical accuracy of the film. Adding more to the apparent inauthenticity, the (available) cast list includes no Lebanese actors or actresses.
From Homeland to Beirut and more, Hollywood’s depiction of Lebanon and the Middle East at large has always been reductive, Orientalist, and borderline offensive. Whether Beirut’s depiction of the city will be that terrible or not will be revealed when the film is released, but as of right now, it appears to be the case.
The film premieres at Sundance on January 22 and worldwide starting April 13 (yes, the anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War). Watch the trailer below.