ADC Praises Disney for New Film, The 13th Warrior ADC President Hala Maksoud today sent a letter to Disney CEO Michael Eisner praising the latest Disney film release, “The 13th Warrior.”
ADC LETTER TO DISNEY:
8/28/99 Michael Eisner CEO, Disney Corporation
Dear Mr. Eisner:
It gives me great pleasure for me to write to you on behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American grassroots organization, to commend Disney’s latest film release, “The 13th Warrior.” This is a rare opportunity for us to welcome and fully embrace a portrayal of an Arab character in a major American motion picture, and we are glad to finally be writing a letter of congratulations to Disney for its portrayal of an Arab character.
“The 13th Warrior” features one of the first Arab heroes in a Hollywood film, the character of Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan. We were delighted to note that this character is not only a hero and a positive figure, but that he is an Arab Muslim character who is not defined purely by his ethnic or religious identity and has a strong individual personality. All too often, Arab characters in Hollywood films are simply one or another negative stereotype.
We not only commend the film, we are encouraging our members to see it. We hope that “The 13th Warrior” will herald the beginning of a new era in which Disney and Hollywood in general includes Arab heroes and positive Arab characters in films, and not just Arab terrorists and other negative stereotypes. We urge all film makers and production companies to follow your lead in this matter. We also encourage you to continue this fine work and make more Disney films featuring such positive portrayals of Arab and Arab-American characters.
Hala Maksoud, Ph.D.
In its press packet on “The 13th Warrior,” Disney describes the film thus:
Based on award-winning author Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel, Eaters of the Dead, Touchstone Pictures’ “The 13th Warrior” is an exciting and unforgettable adventure-thriller. The story of Ibn Fahdlan (ANTONIO BANDERAS), an important emissary who is banished from his homeland, the nomadic outcast comes across a band of Norse warriors who coerce him into joining them when they are summoned to fight mysterious creatures legendary for consuming every living thing in their path. Eventually surrounded by the frightening and ferocious foe, Ibn must conquer his personal fears and help battle the illusive invaders–who emerge out of the shroud of fog in the black of night.
ABOUT THE STORY:
Michael Crichton completed his novel Eaters of the Dead in 1976, and had drawn the inspiration for the story from parts of a historical account written by Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan.
“In the tenth century, Ibn Fahdlan was traveling in Central Asia and came across a group of Norse warriors,” says novelist/producer Michael
Crichton. “Fahdlan is well known as a historical commentator because he is one of the few who wrote detailed eyewitness accounts of these people. The manuscript he wrote showed he was an astute and, seemingly, accurate observer of these travelers who he describes with a very unblinking eye and a kind of honesty and curiosity.
“The information from Fahdlan has been filtered into an account from different pieces of the manuscript and from different translations from around the world,” explains Crichton. “I assembled as much of it as I could into English and used that as the basis of the first three chapters of the story.
“Baghdad was one of the major founding centers of civilization,” continues Crichton. “Even in that time period, they were probably the most cosmopolitan people around. They had extraordinary knowledge and wealth and they traded with other people, so they would also absorb information from many cultures. You can see how impressionable and fascinating it would be for a person of that background to come across these gigantic warriors who sleep with their weapons, who are laughing and humorous and also crude and rough by comparison.
“The way Fahdlan described the Norse warriors was very compelling and it led me to learn more about them,” Crichton says. “They were, in fact, a very remarkable group of people. Extraordinarily courageous, doing amazing exploits. They had wonderful spirit, great humor and a profoundly developed philosophy of life. How we think about them today is, in a certain way, the result of centuries of Anglo-Saxon propaganda,” notes Crichton, adding with a smile, “because you know, they sacked all our ancestors.”
“Where this thousand-year-old story ends, Michael Crichton took off with it and said ‘What If?'” says director/producer John McTiernan. “I believe he sensed that there was an entertaining and contemporary story in this very old classic.
“Essentially, the story is about a cosmopolitan yuppie, if you will, who gets into political trouble when he becomes involved with the wrong girl,” explains McTiernan. “He is a young politician and so they punish him by sending him off as an ambassador to a very distant land. And, in the middle of Central Asia, he stumbles into a camp of really tough guys. Because of a prophecy, he gets kidnapped and taken all the way to the northern end of the Scandinavian peninsula. I’ve always liked the story, and so I spoke to Michael [Crichton] about adapting it for film.”