The Homeland Beirut Saga – Missing The Point

I reported back in May that the US TV drama, Homeland, used locations in Tel Aviv to shoot scenes that were supposedly of Beirut. Over the past few days, I have been amused by the whole “Beirut doesn’t look like that” from all corners of the blogosphere once the show was aired. The recent news that the Lebanese government is planning to sue (A Separate State of Mind | Blog Baladi) gave me quite a chuckle. What all these comments failed to mention was the reason why the producers of Homeland chose to shot their scenes in Israel rather than in Lebanon.

Too Risky for Insurance Companies

Well we have answer to that. According to the show’s producer Howard Gordon in a May 2012 interview, he wanted to shoot the scenes in Lebanon but faced “challenges of insuring the cast and crew” there. Insurance companies in the US would not provide coverage for Lebanon. Why would an insurance company refuse coverage? Because they consider it too risky to price their premium. Security in the country, as we know, is inconsistent. So the producer decided to shoot in what he believed resembles Beirut, and that was Tel Aviv, in his words, “Israel looks a lot more like (Beirut) than southern California”.

Artistic License

The last time I checked, Homeland is still a work of fiction based on the Israeli TV series Prisoners of War (FOX purchased the rights of the series and adapted it – thus Homeland was created). Being a work of fiction, the writers and producers have a dramatic license to create whatever they want. For instance, the CIA cannot investigate and chase terrorists within the borders of the United States, especially if the suspect is an American citizen. That is the work of the FBI — but that wouldn’t be sexy enough for a spy thriller. Welcome to the world of artistic license where distorting facts is the name of the game. Let’s say, playing the devil’s advocate, Homeland was shot in Hamra Street. Would you really think that the pristine, cafe-littered street would not be transformed with a few props to look like a war zone as the writers and producers want? Are we that naive to think that we can dictate to movie producers how they should shoot their scenes and how exactly things should be portrayed?

Looks Like Beirut

You might be aware that I have been fighting the “looks like Beirut” obsession for a few years with over a hundred certificates sent out to date. But my fight has been limited to what should be factual news stories. Going after movie producers and writers is not the way to go to change people’s impressions of the Beirut and Lebanon as a whole.

With this, I would like to leave you with a disclaimer you might have seen if you sat through the credits of a movie or TV show:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the writer’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Homeland

Homeland

11 Comments
  1. For me, what was interesting was that although they clearly paid a lot of attention to detail with many areas of the show, to ensure the storylines, locations and costumes were believable, they did not bother to do that for the Beirut scenes. If they had set their Washington D.C. scenes in a place that looked nothing like Washington D.C., people would have been equally surprised. This was not a ‘fantasy’ series, but one that aimed to use realistic events to create a gripping and believable plot. I think lazy location research lead them to fall in to that familiar trap of assuming ‘the Middle East’ looks a certain way. It’s probably too kind to credit the producers with artistic license – I think ignorance may have had more to do with it.

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