Showtime’s Emmy-winning terrorist thriller “Homeland” opened its second season with a nail-biting operation to take down Hezbollah’s top commanders in Beirut, who were planning an attack on America.
As with many film and television productions, these scenes were shot for logistical reasons in another location — in this case, with Israel substituting for the Lebanese capital.
“This kind of film damages the image of Lebanon — it is not fair to us and it’s not true, it is not portraying reality,” Lebanese Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud told the Beirut-based Executive magazine. “We want to take action, we want to write to the filmmakers and producers and demand an apology. And we are planning to raise a lawsuit against the director and the producer.”
And that reportedly rankles residents and officials on both sides of the border conflict.
One scene Lebanese officials find particularly objectionable in “Beirut Is Back,” “Homeland’s” second episode, “shows Hamra Street with militia roaming in it. This does not reflect reality,” he said. “It was not filmed in Beirut and does not portray the real image of Beirut.”
Notably, “Homeland” is based on an Israeli series, “Prisoners of War,” but aside from geographical similarities between Tel Aviv and Beirut, it is much safer to film in Israel, a proven U.S. ally. The AP points to the abundance of guns and other weapons in Lebanon, used by armed militias –including Hezbollah — and private citizens.
Most see Beirut officials’ complaints as just another excuse to fan the flames between the two nations. And Ariel Kolitz, a friend of “Prisoners” co-creator Gideon Raff, pointed out that the issue is moot: travel restrictions and safety concerns prevent “Homeland” from filming in Lebanon.
“It’s a lot simpler to shoot here,” he said. “That’s it.”
Relying only on the Beirut tourist official’s argument that the Israel scenes don’t reflect reality (the decades-long deadly conflict in the Middle East falls outside the scope of this piece), it’s important to note that many U.S.-set TV shows and films shoot on location in Canada and other countries — for financial and location benefits — that are obviously fictional versions of their settings.
In Vancouver, “Fringe” is depicting an American apocalypse, “Supernatural” features vicious monsters every week, and the poor cast and crew of “Psych” spend a lot of time on location shivering in the rain in their unconvincing portrayal of warm and sunny Santa Barbara.
What do you believe: Is this a publicity stunt by some bureaucrats with a grudge, or a valid concern? If you were scouting locations for Beirut, what would you choose instead?