Plot Description of The Wind and the Lion
In the early 1900s, an American businessman was kidnapped by a rebellious Arab chieftain, principally as a means to embarrass the Sultan of Morocco. This abduction sparked the threat of armed intervention by President Theodore Roosevelt, which was never carried out. In The Wind and the Lion, the unattractive male captive is replaced by the gorgeous female Mrs. Pedecaris, an American widow played by Candice Bergen. The ruthless but essentially decent Arab chief Raisuli is portrayed by Sean Connery, while Teddy Roosevelt is depicted as a jingoistic blowhard by Brian Keith. The film’s main theme, that of America’s emergence as a world power, is largely secondary to the growing mutual-respect relationship between Mrs. Pedecaris and Raisuli. After releasing his hostage, Raisuli is himself captured by German forces, who at the behest of the Kaiser are seeking out methods of laying the groundwork for what would evolve into World War I. With the help of Mrs. Pedecaris—and, in long-distance fashion, President Roosevelt—Raisuli escapes. Director John Milius’ screenplay bears little relation to the facts of the matter, but this is forgotten in the light of the film’s dynamic action sequences, not to mention the marvelous rapport between its two main stars.2
Ideas for the Classroom4Possible key questions and observation tasks for the film The Wind and the Lion especially in the context of clichés and stereotypes are:
- What does the film portray?
- How are the people (e.g. different ethnic, social, political groups) portrayed?
- How can we define and resist the stereotypes presented in the film?
- To what extent does the film constitute a colonialist/anti-colonialist movie?
- Which role does the casting play?
To come to terms with the multi-layered message of the film, the following reading projects are suggested:3
- American expansionism in the first half of the 20th century
- Roosevelt’s presidency
- The role of the British in North Africa
- Maroc independence
- Strategic implications of the building of the Panama Canal
- Fictionalisation of history and of intercultural relationships
- M. Rowlandson’s Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration4
- Arab American literature as a counterbalance to the stereotypes conveyed by Hollywood film
Additional film material9Numerous films coming out of Hollywood would work in this context. Film critique and media expert Jack G. Shaheen explored more than 900 movies and television shows in his study “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.”6 The nine-minute trailer-like version of this book by film maker and artist Jaqueline Salloum was presented at the Sundance Film festival 2005. It depicts scenes from action movies like Schwarzenegger’s “True Lies,” but also children’s programs like “The Muppet Show,” Disney cartoons, or family movies like “Back to the Future.”
1 See <http://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/pdf/PresseUndAktuelles/Beschluesse_ Veroeffentlichungen/allg_Schulwesen/epa_englisch.pdf> (30 May 2006).2 Hal Erickson, “All Movie Guide,” <http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll> (3 September 2006).
4 See <http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/ history/lavender/rownarr.html> (30 May 2006).
5 See <http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/bhabha/commit.html> (30 May 2006).
6 Jack G. Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch, 2001).
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