Despite being a 20-year-old film, “Hollywood Harems,” directed by Tania Kamal-Eldin, discusses myths and fantasies of Orientalism and Arab women that still resonate today. The documentary takes a close look at several films, from “The Sheik” (1921) to “The Mummy” (1932), and others spanning between the 1930s and 1960s, with a sharp focus on the portrayal of women -- from fictionalized harems and the voyeuristic “intruder’s gaze” of men, to the depiction of their exploiters as Arab men and saviors as white men. In the words of the reviewer, “Kamal-Eldin notes, however, that these melodramas played out in a real world that was changing drastically, not only in the proliferation of technology that included motion pictures, but in political and economic shifts that had major consequences for the Middle East.”
“Hollywood Harems,” reviewed by Angele Ellis, is scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Al Jadid, Vol. 23, No. 77, 2019.
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