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in Filmmaking
on Aug 26, 2008

A couple of weeks after organizations for the disabled attacked Tropic Thunder for an epithet used in the movie, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is objecting to the title of Alan Ball’s new film, Towelhead, which opens next month. But Eric D. Snider at Cinematical argues that the film’s title shouldn’t be considered offensive as it can’t be separated from the intentions of the film itself:

I think CAIR’s objections could be remedied by simply watching the movie. Over the course of it, the girl (played amazingly by Summer Bishil) comes to feel empowered and confident in who she is. She overcomes the slurs and the harassment, and she embraces her identity as an Arab-American and as a young woman. To complain about the title is to miss the forest because you’re too busy looking at the trees. I think people who have actually seen the film understand that.

Towelhead is also the name of the novel by Arab-American Alicia Ehran that the film is based on. Both she and Ball comment in this Reuters piece:

Erian, who is Arab-American, said that although the title is an ethnic slur, she “selected it to highlight one of the novel’s major themes: racism.”

She called CAIR’s work “admirable,” but said that “the solution … is not to force the artist to alter her work, but instead to use the occasion of that work as an entry point for meaningful debate and discussion.”

Ball said he felt it was important to retain the title of Erian’s novel because “she so effectively dramatizes the pain inflicted by such language, something many people of non-minority descent never have to face.”

Read the rest of Snider’s piece and the lively comments thread that follows at the link above.

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