Dramatization of History : A Comparison of Middle East Terrorism Depicted in Films Regarding 9/11 Attacks and Previous Events

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program

Brief Introduction & Synopsis
Working Table of Contents
List of References

Brief Introduction & Synopsis (as of June 9th) . go to Teacher's Comment

            Compared to other movie films and documentaries which base themselves on real historical acts of terrorism, the American films based on the 9/11 attacks of 2001 tend to be more negatively biased toward the Middle East in general.

            This paper will focus on comparing the films based on four major acts of international terrorism committed by a Middle-East based organization. One event will be weighed against the other three, for the 9/11 attacks of Al-Qaeda have been made into films which are more negatively biased toward the Middle East than other films depicting real events of terrorism. The three acts of terrorism that have been respectively made into films are: The Munich massacre of 1972, the hijacking of the Lufthansa 181 in 1977, and the crash of TWA flight 847 in 1985. It is the purpose of this paper to analyze the techniques and choice of words in each movie made by American or European (all placing them within crude 'Western' perimeters) directors. As for the case of movies dealing with the September 11th attacks, all of them have been produced in the United States. By comparing the portrayals of the antagonists in the movies and noting the words which may connote a prejudiced viewpoint, it would be possible to ascertain the high level of negative bias in 9/11 films. The extent to which these films are historically accurate will also be a focus of this paper; if they contain dramatized elements, it is important to understand their motives.
            The September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade center and the Pentagon served as a major catalyst which forced the United States into a different foreign policy agenda. The government declared a 'War on Terror' and subsequently proceeded to aggressively attack a number of hostile Middle Eastern regimes. The US Patriot Act was enacted, which curtailed human rights to those who were labeled ¡®enemy combatants¡¯, leading to a heated debate about the basic principles of democracy
            It may be argued that an urgent sense of national patriotism was needed, and the directors of 9/11 films have merely endeavored to follow the needs of the general public and possibly, the government. However, the excessive promotion of patriotism may have resulted in an increasingly polarized view of the Middle East as a hostile aggressor.
            While not as visually shocking as 9/11, international acts of terrorism have been committed for decades by a number of militant organizations from the Middle East. These events served as points of change for the countries which received the attacks also. For example, the state of Israel long pursued a secret Mossad mission named ¡®Operation Wrath of God¡¯ to eliminate further threat.
            The Munich Massacre, the hijacking of an airplane and an airplane crash have been portrayed by the Western media, but from less polarizing viewpoints. A large reason would be that in these events, the United States had never been the target. While this paper does not go far as to definitely prove the underlying motives which caused the bias of 9/11 films to occur, it will attempt to solve the fundamental question of whether a substantial amount of prejudice was extant in those films

            A detailed history of the four terrorist events will first be given, which will be compiled from at least 2-3 sources. This will serve as a reference point to uncover any historical misrepresentations the films may have made. Then, each movie will be scrutinized and summarized for its overall depiction of the Middle East; finally, a third step will generalize the movies into the two groups mentioned above and prove the thesis.

Working Table of Contents (as of June 9th) . go to Teacher's Comment

I. Introduction
II. History of Events Depicted on Film
     1.) Munich Massacre of 1972
          1.) The Building Hold-out
          2.) The Airport Fiasco
          3.) Later Events
          4.) Lufthansa Flight 181
     2.) TWA Flight 847 of 1985
          1.) The Incident
          2.) Uli Derickson's Role
     3.) September 11, 2001 Attacks
          1.) The Terrorists' Motives and Plans
          2.) The Attacks and Damages
          3.) Conspiracy Theory
          4.) Ramifications in U.S. Foreign Policy
III. Film Analysis of Movies Depicting Events Other Than 9/11
     1.) 21 Hours at Munich
     2.) One Day in September
     3.) Sword of Gideon
     4.) The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story
     5.) Mogadishu Welcome
     6.) Munich (2005)
     7.) Summary & Overall Characterization
IV. Film Analysis of Movies Depicting 9/11
     1.) World Trade Center
     2.) The Flight that Fought Back
     3.) Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden ?
     4.) United 93
     5.) Fahrenheit 9/11
     6.) 9/11: Press for Truth
     7.) 9/11 (TV Series)
     8.) Summary & Overall Characterization
V. Comparison and Conclusion
     1.) Historical Accuracy
     2.) Portrayal of Arab & Palestinian people
     3.) Elements of Dramatization
     4.) Elements of political propaganda
     5.) Conclusion

List of References (as of June 9th) . go to Teacher's Comment

I. Books
1. Shaheen, Jack G. The TV Arab. Green State Univ Popular Press, 1984
2. --- Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11. Olive Branch Press, 2008
3. --- Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Interlink Publishing, 2001
4. Lustick, Ian S. Trapped in the War on Terror. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2006
5. Paletz, David L. Terrorism and the Media. Sage Publications, 1992
6. Reeve, Simon. One Day In September. Arcade Publishing, 2006
7. Klein, Aaron J. Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel¡¯s Deadly Response. Random House, 2007

II. Films
1 - Munich Massacre + other Events
1. 21 Hours at Munich. Dir. William A. Graham, Filmways Pictures 1976
2. One Day In September. Dir. Kevin Macdonald, Passion Pictures 1999
3. Sword of Gideon. Dir. Michael Anderson, Alliance Entertainment 1986
4. The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story. Dir. Paul Wendkos, Columbia Pictures 1988
5. Mogadishu Welcome. Dir. Roland Suso Richter, teamWorx Produktion f?r Kino und Fernsehen GmbH 2008 (German film)
6. Munich. Dir. Steven Spielberg, Dreamwork SKG 2005
2 - September 11 Attack
7. World Trade Center. Dir. Oliver Stone, Paramount Pictures 2006
8. The Flight that Fought Back. Dir. Bruce Goodison, Brook Lapping Productions 2005
9. Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?. Dir. Morgan Spurlock, Non Linear Films 2008
10. United 93. Dir. Paul Greengrass, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment 2006
11. Fahrenheit 9/11. Dir. Michael Moore, Lions Gate Films 2004
12. 9/11: Press for Truth. Dir. Ray Nowosielski, Banded Artists, 2006 (documentary)
13. 9/11. Dir. James Hanlon & Rob Klug, CBS Television 2002 (TV Series)

III. Websites
1. Zogby, James J. ¡®The Other Anti-Semitism¡¯. Sojourners, 7 June 2008
2. Simon, Scott J. ¡®Arabs in Hollywood: An Undeserved Image¡¯. Latent Image, Emerson College 7 June 2008
3. 'Anti-Arabism', Wikipedia 7 June 2008
4.'September 11, 2001 Attacks', Wikipedia 7 June 2008
5.'Munich Massacre', Wikipedia 7 June 2008
6.'Lufthansa Flight 181' Wikipedia 7 June 2008
7.'TWA Flight 847', Wikipedia 7 June 2008