The terror group ISIS continues to fly under the radar of Hollywood's major studios.
The entertainment industry wasted little time targeting Donald Trump.
The reality show star’s ascent sent Hollywood into creative hyperdrive. We quickly saw a movie parody based on his ’80s era antics (Johnny Depp’s “The Art of the Deal”). Far-left filmmaker Michael Moore rushed out a pre-election documentary centered on the future president.
TV show after TV show altered its programming to embrace “The Resistance.” The progressive movement attempted to overturn the will of the people by removing Trump from office before he even set foot in the White House..
It all happened in less than a year. And we’ll be seeing the fruits of this new creative push for months, if not years, to come.
And then there’s ISIS.
The radical Islamist group’s barbarism is the stuff of our worst nightmares. And they’re on the march. ABC News succinctly captures ISIS’s impact on the globe last year:
…the world’s most brutal terrorist network, not only responsible for thousands of deaths in the Middle East but also linked to hundreds more in dozens of terrorist plots in the West.
It’s been that way since President Barack Obama dismissed the group as a “JV” threat in 2014.
That “threat” powers “City of Ghosts,” a new documentary from Amazon Studios. The feature introduces us Syrian men from the city of Raqqa. They’re fighting back against the Islamic State forces which took over their once-peaceful region.
How? By capturing their ghastly crimes and sharing them across the globe. They’re risking their lives with ever Tweet.
It’s alternately fascinating and frightening. We watch amateur video of ISIS speeches, see innocents casually killed and process propaganda attempting to win over converts.
Those who resist are killed.
So why aren’t we seeing major movies or TV shows where ISIS represents the villain? Productions take time between the initial concepts and the release dates. Isn’t three years enough time for Hollywood to act?
Villains for Hire
Tinsel Town has turned to Nazis as a go-to enemy for generations. They’re still doing it. Consider the heroic tale of the Allied-powered rescue in 1940 France in Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” as the most recent example.
Why not ISIS?
Shouldn’t Channing Tatum be fighting ISIS soldiers in a gritty war blockbuster? Perhaps Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron could re-team for a ripped from the headlines thriller about the men and women sacrificing themselves to stop ISIS attacks.
An argument could be made that ISIS’s handiwork is too cruel, too unthinkable to capture on screen. That hardly squares with studio affection for torture porn franchises like the “Saw” series, set to resume this Fall with “Jigsaw.”
Storytellers also can relegate the horrors ISIS inflicts to off-screen moments. We can too easily fill in the blanks.
Nazi concentration camps gave us atrocities the likes of which we hadn’t seen before the dawn of ISIS. The film industry routinely tells stories connected to the Holocaust. It’s an essential lesson for a new generation to grasp.
Could storytellers be fearful of a Muslim-led backlash against any such project? Groups aligned with Muslim-Americans frequently speak out when Hollywood tells stories with radical Islamic villains. The Showtime series “Homeland” got hit so hard by those accusations the story veered 180 degrees, making government officials, not Islamic radicals, the bad guys.
Once upon a time, storytellers felt compelled to capture real-life villains. Call it cinematic patriotism. The recent British important “Their Finest” recalled how filmmakers rallied in the early days of World War II to boost the spirits of a war-weary nation.
That’s very rarely the cast these days.
In the wake of 9/11 President George W. Bush’s administration, led by Karl Rove, summoned some Hollywood power players to see if the industry could do its part to fight the new War on Terror.
Those proposals were ignored.
These Heroes Deserve the Spotlight
The brave souls in “City of Ghosts” risked their lives to expose the horrors of ISIS in their home town. In the beginning, both Arab and international media outlets did little to share the news.
They helped change that.
Their stories are remarkable. full of sacrifice and heroism. The documentary detailing it is a must-see event. Why not extend the film to its logical conclusion, cinematically speaking?
Couldn’t a major film studio take the Syrian heroes from “City of Ghosts” and turn them into film characters? The story features Arabs as heroes — the souls behind the RBSS movement (Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently). That would blunt the politically correct folks who might line up against such a project.
To be fair, a few filmmakers have taken on ISIS without reservation. Consider indie films like “Layla M.,” “The Dark Wind” and “The Road to Istanbul.” The closest Hollywood offering? The upcoming “Jack Ryan” TV series starring John Krasinski appears to target ISIS as an early antagonist.
Ironically, the 2002 Jack Ryan vehicle “The Sum of All Fears” starring Ben Affleck swapped out the original story’s Islamic terrorists for Neo-Nazis.
UPDATE: A gimlet-eyed reader did find one major Hollywood production gearing up to tackle ISIS. “The Anarchists vs. ISIS” will star Jake Gyllenhaal and feature American “volunteers, socialists and outcasts” teaming with Kurdish troops to battle ISIS in Syria. The film is based on a Rolling Stone article about true events in the war-torn country.