Nina Davenport, filmmaker.
Many Americans expected Operation Iraqi Freedom to be a quick intervention welcomed by the Iraqi people. Yet, over six years later, an American occupation continues. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 5,000 Americans have perished in the conflict since 2003. Millions have become refugees and sectarian violence persists. Our initial expectations were upset; our ignorance of Middle Eastern culture exposed.
Inspired by the 2003 MTV profile of Iraqi film student Muthana Mohmed, American actor Liev Schreiber invited the young man to intern on a Hollywood movie set. Documentary maker Nina Davenport immediately saw an opportunity: she would tape Muthana’s Hollywood internship. “I thought the film would be called The Kindness of Liev Schreiber,” she later said. However, cultural differences between the young Iraqi and his co-workers proved greater than expected. A project that was only supposed to take a few months turned into a yearlong endeavor, as Operation Filmmaker began to resemble another instance of good American intentions gone awry.
Adjusting to a new and different culture is difficult for everyone, but young people from the Middle East have an especially difficult time adapting to American culture. According to Mona Faragallah, Walter Schumm, and Farell Webb, Arabs are more likely than any other immigrant group to say that, “In the U.S., there is no place I really belong.” The situation is such that many Arabs report disillusionment with the United States and a strong desire to return home.*
* Faragallah, Mona H.; Schumm, Walter R.; Webb, Farrell J. “Acculturation of Arab-American immigrants: an exploratory study.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies (1997).
Operation Iraqi Freedom, Middle Eastern culture
Davenport, Nina. "Operation Filmmaker." Ensemble video, 01:25:29. September 17, 2009. https://ensemble.dickinson.edu/Watch/Ft6g3QZr