What Lena Dunham Writing a Syrian Refugee Film Tells Us About Hollywood’s ‘Diversity’ – 莉娜杜汉姆写的一部叙利亚难民电影告诉我们好莱坞的“多样性”

Last month it was announced that Lena Dunham, the American actor and creator of the hit US show Girls (2012–17) would adapt the book A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea (2017) by Melissa Fleming, the head of communications for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea tells the harrowing story of Syrian refugee Doaa al-Zamel, who survived the sinking of the boat she was on, attempting to cross from Egypt to Italy in 2014. Zamel was stranded for four days at sea, ending the ordeal holding two babies who had been entrusted to her by their dying families. Her only support was a child’s inflatable life ring given to her by her fiancé, who drowned in front of her in the choppy waters of the Mediterranean Sea. This year alone that same body of water has claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 people.

Dunham was commissioned by producers JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg to turn Fleming’s book into a screenplay. But while Dunham faced considerable backlash for signing up – with the outrage especially prevalent on social media – Abrams and Spielberg’s roles as privileged white-men have come under less scrutiny. And it is fair to say that some of the criticism against Dunham has been petty, gendered and mean-spirited.

Lena Dunham, Girls, season 2, 2013, film still. Courtesy: HBO

What Lena Dunham Writing a Syrian Refugee Film Tells Us About Hollywood’s ‘Diversity’ - 莉娜杜汉姆写的一部叙利亚难民电影告诉我们好莱坞的“多样性”

Lena Dunham, Girls, season 2, 2013, film still. Courtesy: HBO

Dunham may not be the best-placed person to tell Zamel’s story. While in recent years she has been campaigning on social justice issues, Dunham has a chequered record when it comes to representation on television, with a considerable lack of visible diversity in the characters that populate her hit series Girls: an array of bratty, white and privileged Brooklynites. It makes you wonder whether she can bring the right level of pathos and nuance to a portrayal of Zamel’s story. Yet the outrage has also given us space to discuss urgent questions about who gets to tell refugee stories. The key issue is who gets to control the common means of cultural production – all too often, refugees or marginal groups do not get to tell their own stories.

There’s some truth to the argument that someone like Dunham – a writer with celebrity power – can help elevate such stories. But however well-intentioned, we can no longer ignore an industry which has continually erased non-white people in film. Does Hollywood have such a dearth of Arab female voices that Syrian or Arab writers and directors could not have adapted this script? A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea is a re-re-telling of a refugee’s story, in which the original subject’s agency becomes marginal – the story has been told by a UN official (Zamel agreed for her story to be told, but Fleming wrote the book and this is not a ‘collaboration’), and will now be filtered through two giant Hollywood producers and Dunham. Of course, there are other excellent books about refugees making journeys to Europe, written by refugees themselves: consider Gulwali Passarlay’s The Lightless Sky (2015), or Nujeen Mustafa’s The Girl From Aleppo (2016).  

Ai Weiwei, Human Flow, 2017, film still. Courtesy: AC Films

What Lena Dunham Writing a Syrian Refugee Film Tells Us About Hollywood’s ‘Diversity’ - 莉娜杜汉姆写的一部叙利亚难民电影告诉我们好莱坞的“多样性”

Ai Weiwei, Human Flow, 2017, film still. Courtesy: AC Films

Representations of refugees – so much part of our current cultural zeitgeist – have taken an exploitative and reductive flavour in recent films. Consider films by Ai Weiwei, Luca Guadagnino and Michael Haneke. Even the much lauded Fire at Sea, the documentary set on Lampedusa island by Italian director Gianfranco Rosi which won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 2016, felt like it overexposed and intruded on its largely African subjects, portrayed as desperate, unspeaking peripheral bodies kept warm by gold spacecraft blankets.

But there are important changes afoot in how films can show non-white bodies. Take the opening of Steve McQueen’s latest film, the heist-thriller Widows (2018). Viola Davis’s character shares a subtle, yet powerful scene in bed with Liam Neeson. There she is, a dark-skinned black woman in her 50s, with her natural hair out, sharing a heartfelt romantic kiss. ‘I am with what America would consider a hunk, and he’s not my slave owner and I am not a prostitute,’ Davis has commented. This scene is not some overt political statement; it just shows a black woman in an everyday situation we rarely ever see in film. McQueen is that rare bird in Hollywood, a black director who gets to make his own films in his image.

Steve McQueen, Widows, 2018, film still. Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

What Lena Dunham Writing a Syrian Refugee Film Tells Us About Hollywood’s ‘Diversity’ - 莉娜杜汉姆写的一部叙利亚难民电影告诉我们好莱坞的“多样性”

Steve McQueen, Widows, 2018, film still. Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

These complex notes in Hollywood films are usually missing. Take the commercial successes in this year’s two key ‘diverse’ films: Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther. The latter’s representation of the fictional nation of Wakanda as some kind of zero-sum Africa, in which all manner of African traditional cultural styles were weaved into a single type, was frankly problematic. In Crazy Rich Asians, based on a novel by Singaporean-American novelist Kevin Kwan, the buzz around it could not hide the fact this was a soppy drama straight from the annals of Hollywood romcom films – even stellar performances from the all-Asian supporting cast, notably Awkwafina as the protagonist’s best friend Peik Lin, could not save poor scriptwriting and the largest, most complex continent on the planet, being reduced to a single ‘Asian’ story.

The real trouble with the Dunham project is what could have been an important moment to tell a nuanced, human and complex refugee story may end up being filtered through a white gaze which, however well-meaning, still seems an insidious form of colonialism. Hollywood embraces ‘diverse’ film as a survival mechanism or way to grow new markets, yet real power resides in the hands of a few. The film industry may ‘reinvent’ the playbook because diversity is in the zeitgeist, but these lip-service responses continue to erase non-white bodies. Even with the director yet to be announced, in the end, the real struggle is over who gets to wield power in the editorial chair. Who gets to produce, write and make these films? Merely telling stories about refugees is not enough. It has to be about challenging long histories of power inequalities, and the stereotypes that populate Hollywood productions: ‘the Muslim radical’ and the ‘sassy black friend’.

Gianfranco Rosi, Fire At Sea, 2016, film still. Courtesy: 01 Distribution

What Lena Dunham Writing a Syrian Refugee Film Tells Us About Hollywood’s ‘Diversity’ - 莉娜杜汉姆写的一部叙利亚难民电影告诉我们好莱坞的“多样性”

Gianfranco Rosi, Fire At Sea, 2016, film still. Courtesy: 01 Distribution

What do we end up with when we miss the nuance? We get a single refugee story – often tragically sad, and harrowing – and we also focus on Syrians, because they feed our liberal bias for a ‘good refugee’ story. This comes at the expense of people from sub-Saharan Africa who are deemed to have made their journeys by choice, and therefore somehow not deserving of the same level of sympathy. The complex experiences of people on the move are reduced to simple binaries of good and bad, and other refugees’s more complex stories remain buried beneath the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Main image: Lena Dunham, Lincoln Center, 2018. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Dia Dipasupil

Ismail Einashe

Ismail Einashe is a writer based in London, UK.

Opinion /

Ismail Einashe
Film
Refugees
Lena Dunham
Ai Weiwei
Hollywood
Diversity
Steve McQueen
Gianfranco Rosi


上个月,据宣布,美国影星列娜·邓纳姆(Lena Dunham)将改编《希望比海洋更强大》(2017年)一书。《希望比海更强大》讲述了叙利亚难民多阿·扎梅尔(Doaa al-Zamel)的悲惨故事,她在2014年试图从埃及横渡到意大利的船只沉没中幸存下来。扎梅尔在海上搁浅了四天,结束了抱着两个孩子的苦难,这两个孩子是他们垂死的家人托付给她的。她唯一的支持是她的未婚夫送给她的一枚充气生命戒指,她被淹没在地中海波涛汹涌的海面上。仅今年一年,同样的水就夺去了将近2000人的生命。Dunham委托制片人JJ Abrams和史蒂文斯皮尔伯格把Fleming的书改编成剧本。但是,虽然邓纳姆在签约时面临相当大的反弹——在社交媒体上尤其普遍的愤怒——但艾布拉姆斯和斯皮尔伯格作为有特权的白人角色并没有受到那么严格的审查。公平地说,对Dunham的一些批评是小气的、有性别的和卑鄙的。莉娜杜汉姆,女孩,第2, 2013季,电影依旧。礼貌:HBO WPA6021602IMG莉娜杜汉姆,女孩,第2, 2013季,电影仍然。礼貌:HBO邓纳姆可能不是最好的人来告诉Zamel的故事。近年来,邓纳姆一直在社会正义问题上进行竞选,但在电视上的表现却屡见不鲜,她的热门连续剧《女孩》中人物形象缺乏明显的多样性:一群性情乖戾、白人和有特权的布鲁克林。矿石。它让你怀疑她是否能给Zamel的故事描绘出正确的悲怆和细微差别。然而,愤怒也给了我们讨论有关难民故事的紧急问题的空间。关键问题是谁能够控制共同的文化生产手段——经常地,难民或边缘群体不能讲述他们自己的故事。像邓纳姆这样的具有名人气质的作家,能够帮助提升这样的故事情节,这种说法有些道理。但是,不管多么善意,我们不能再忽视一个在电影中不断擦除非白人的行业。好莱坞是否缺乏阿拉伯女性的声音,以至于叙利亚或阿拉伯的作家和导演无法改编这个剧本?《希望比大海更强大》是对难民故事的重新讲述,其中原主题的机构变得边缘化——故事被一位联合国官员讲述(扎梅尔同意她的故事被讲述,但弗莱明写了这本书,这不是“合作”),并且现在将会重述。通过两个巨大的好莱坞生产商和Dunham过滤。当然,还有其他关于难民前往欧洲的优秀书籍,由难民自己撰写:考虑Gulwali Passarlay的《无光的天空》(2015)或Nujeen Mustafa的《来自阿勒颇的女孩》(2016)。礼貌:AC电影WPA6022602IMG艾未未,人流量,2017,胶片仍然。礼貌:AC电影《难民的再现》是我们当前文化时代精神的重要组成部分,在最近的电影中带有剥削性和还原性的色彩。考虑艾未未、卢卡·圭达尼诺和迈克尔·哈内克的电影。即使是备受赞誉的《海上大火》,这部由意大利导演吉安弗兰科·罗西拍摄的纪录片也是以2016年在柏林赢得金熊奖为题材,以兰佩杜萨岛为背景,感觉它被过度曝光,侵入了大部分非洲题材,被描绘成绝望的、难以形容的、被金色sp保暖的外围尸体。橡皮毯子但是在电影如何展现非白色的身体方面有着重要的变化。以史蒂夫·麦奎因的最新影片《抢劫惊悚寡妇》开场(2018)。维奥拉戴维斯的性格与连姆·尼森在床上分享了一个微妙而有力的场面。她是一个五十岁的黑皮肤的黑人女人,她天生的头发,分享一个衷心的浪漫吻。戴维斯评论道:“我和美国认为是个大亨一样,他不是我的奴隶主,我也不是妓女。”这个场景不是什么公开的政治声明,它只是显示了一个黑人妇女在日常生活中的情况,我们很少在电影中看到。麦奎因是好莱坞里的珍禽异兽,他是一位黑人导演,他以自己的形象制作了自己的电影。史蒂夫·麦奎因,寡妇,2018岁,电影依旧。礼貌:二十世纪福克斯WPAP6023 602IMG史提夫麦奎因,寡妇,2018,电影仍然。礼貌:二十世纪福克斯,好莱坞电影中的这些复杂的注释通常不见了。以今年的两个关键“多样化”电影的商业成功:疯狂的富有的亚洲人和黑豹。后者把Wakanda这个虚构的民族描绘成某种零和的非洲,其中各种非洲传统文化风格被编织成一种类型,这显然是有问题的。在《亚洲疯狂富豪》中,根据新加坡裔美国小说家关凯文的一部小说改编,围绕这部小说的轰动声无法掩盖这样一个事实:这是一部直接从好莱坞传奇电影编年史上流传下来的乏味的戏剧——甚至包括全亚洲配角的明星表演,尤其是作为主角的奥夸芬娜。.最好的朋友林佩克(Peik.)无法挽救拙劣的剧本写作以及地球上最大、最复杂的大陆,只剩下一个“亚洲”故事。邓纳姆计划的真正问题是,讲述一个微妙的、人性化的、复杂的难民故事的重要时刻可能最终被白色的眼光所过滤,不管多么善意,它仍然是殖民主义的一种阴险形式。好莱坞把“多元化”电影当作一种生存机制或增长新市场的方式,然而真正的力量掌握在少数人手中。电影业可能会“重塑”剧本,因为多元化是时代精神,但是这些口头回应继续抹去非白人的身体。甚至在导演还没有宣布的时候,最终,真正的斗争是谁在编辑椅上掌握权力。谁来创作、创作和制作这些电影?仅仅讲述难民的故事是不够的。它必须挑战权力不平等的悠久历史,以及好莱坞电影中普遍存在的刻板印象:“穆斯林激进分子”和“鲁莽的黑人朋友”。Gianfranco Rosi,火在Sea,2016,电影仍然。礼貌:01分发WPA6024602IMG詹弗朗西罗西,火在Sea,2016,电影仍然。礼貌:01分配:当我们错过细微差别时,我们最终会得到什么?我们有一个单独的难民故事——常常悲惨,令人伤心——我们也关注叙利亚人,因为他们助长了我们对“好难民”故事的自由偏见。这是以牺牲撒哈拉以南非洲地区的人们为代价的,他们被认为是通过选择来旅行的,因此在某种程度上不值得同情。人们在迁徙中的复杂经历被简化为好与坏的简单二分法,其他难民更复杂的故事仍被埋在地中海蔚蓝的海水之下。主要图片:莉娜杜汉姆,林肯中心,2018。礼貌:盖蒂图片;照片:Dia Dipasupil.Ismail Einashe是英国伦敦的一位作家。《意见》/《伊斯梅尔·艾纳舍》电影《难民》女主角列娜·邓纳姆·艾未未·好莱坞的多样性


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