Narrated by Mike Farrell, "Valentino’s Ghost" examines the ways in which America’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East drives the U.S. media’s portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. The film lays bare the truths behind taboo subjects that are conspicuously avoided, or merely treated as sound bites, by the mainstream American media: “Why do they hate us?” “Why do we hate them?” What were the events that led to the 9/11 attacks? What are the politics behind the U.S.-Israeli relationship? Why is there a robust debate about these subjects in Europe, the Arab World and in Israel itself, but not in the U.S.?
A dozen expert commentators includingGore Vidal, Robert Fisk, John Mearsheimer, Anthony Shadid, and Niall Ferguson elucidate the reasons behind the lack of a serious national dialogue on these topics, and reveal the media's – and the U.S. government’s – roles in perpetuating many Americans’ fear and loathing of Arabs, Muslims and Islam.
Until the 1930s, Americans had little interest in the Middle East, other than as a fantasy playland, depicted in a slew of early Hollywood movies such as the hugely successful “Sheik” movies starring Rudolph Valentino. But as America’s economic and political interests in the Mideast grew by the decade, Arabs and Muslims were increasingly depicted as embodiments of evil, in the news media, in Hollywood films, on TV, and even in children’s cartoons.
What social, political and religious forces shifted the image of the Arab to socially acceptable portrayals of the peoples of the Middle East as uniformly barbaric, fanatical, violent, backward, and generically hateful toward America? Why do supremely talented artists and intellectuals in America consider it perfectly “realistic” to depict Arabs and Muslims in a fashion that would be described as bigoted, if the same treatment were applied to blacks, Jews, gays, Native Americans, et al?
Valentino’s Ghost exposes the patterns and contexts that lie behind the deeply ingrained anti-Arab, anti-Muslim underpinnings in the mainstream media, and in cultural products such as Hollywood movies, including the multiple Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty (2012).The 95-minute film features fresh, riveting and often stunning perspectives from the legendary late American writer Gore Vidal; John Mearsheimer, author of “The Israel Lobby”,celebrated British war correspondent Robert Fisk, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Anthony Shadid, Harvard and Oxford historian Niall Ferguson, historian Melani McAlister, TV star Tony Shalhoub, media expert Jack Shaheen, and Hollywood writer Alan Sharp, along with biting commentary in performances by comics Maz Jobrani, Aron Kader and Ahmed Ahmed.