'Homeland's' Portrayal of Beirut Prompts Lebanon to Consider Lawsuit

11:38 PM PST 10/21/2012 by THR Staff, Associated Press
Ronen Akerman/Showtime

Authorities are unhappy that the city is depicted as swarming with militiamen and that the show is actually shot in Israel.

Lebanese authorities are unhappy with the way their country is portrayed in Homeland and are looking into what legal action they might be able to take against Showtime's Emmy-winning drama, the Associated Press reported.

Some Beirutis are reportedly angry because their city is depicted in the series as swarming with militiamen, which they say is misleading. Lebanese Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud told The Associated Press that authorities are mulling their legal options.

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"The information minister is studying media laws to see what can be done," he said.

In particular, one scene he pointed to features snipers on top of rooftops as the world's No. 1 jihadi arrives for a meeting with top Hezbollah commanders. Hamra Street in West Beirut is portrayed as a hotbed of violence, but it is actually a lively neighborhood packed with cafes, book shops and pubs.

Additionally, the scene was actually shot in Israel, and many Beiruitis see that country as the enemy.

"It showed 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."

20th Century Fox Television, which produces Homeland, declined to comment.

Homeland, based on the Israeli series Prisoners of War, is about a U.S Marine named Nick Brody (Damian Lewis) who was a POW for years in the Middle East. The federal government and the public see Brody as a war hero, but a CIA operative (Claire Danes) believes he was turned by the enemy and is now a threat to the U.S.

Homeland won four Emmys at last month's ceremony, including best drama, best actress for Danes, best actor for Lewis and best writing for series co-creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon.

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Several Lebanese interviewed by the AP said they have never heard of the show, but a 60-year-old Lebanese housewife said Israel should never stand in for Lebanon.

"It is very insulting," she said. "Israel destroyed our country. Israel invaded and occupied our country."

However, one college student said he didn't see it as a problem since Lebanese often play Israeli characters in Lebanese soap operas.

Meanwhile, Eytan Schwartz, a spokesman for Tel Aviv's mayor, said the Lebanese should, if anything, be pleased at the TV show's choice for a stand-in.

"If I were Lebanese, with all due respect, I'd be very flattered that a city, and a world heritage site, thanks to its incredible architecture, and residents who were named among the top 10 most beautiful people in the world (ranked by Traveler's Digest magazine in 2012) could pass as Lebanese," he said.

To the average viewer, the Beirut scenes may appear authentic. But to the discerning viewer, hints of Israel are everywhere: cars with blurred yellow Israeli license plates, red-and-white curbs that designate no-parking zones, an Israeli-style traffic circle, and a well-known minaret and clock tower in Jaffa.

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In one rooftop scene, parts of the Tel Aviv skyline, with hotels lining the Mediterranean and the iconic "Shalom Tower" skyscraper, can be seen in the distance.

Despite its immense popularity, Homeland does not appear to have reached Hezbollah's radar.

"I have no idea what you are talking about," Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim al-Moussawi told the AP when asked about the show. "This is the first I'm hearing about it."

Still, he described Abboud's plan to sue the producers as "a good step" and said Hezbollah will probably study the issue and put out a statement if needed.

Lebanon's leading LBC TV carried a report on the controversy Thursday, saying the show disparages Arabs and that its setting in Israel is "a double insult."

But Ariel Kolitz, a Tel Aviv businessman who was a childhood friend of Gideon Raff, the Israeli co-creator of Homeland, said it wasn't as if the production team had the option of shooting in Beirut, where Raff and other Israelis involved are not permitted to visit and where they could be in danger.

"It's a lot simpler to shoot here," he said. "That's it."

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