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How biased are media? Watch this award-winning Omani film to know

A seven-minute film made by media persons in Oman has won high praise from viewers and scooped four awards. The best director and the best actor tell Hasan al Lawati how they plotted the coup



In days where media’s ethics and objectivity are being questioned every single day, a group of Oman-based journalists took a stand and made a short movie to address an unpopular opinion.

‘Dear News Editor’, a seven-minute movie which was shot in Souq Muttrah and its adjacent areas won four awards at the recent Bahrain Film Festival, including Best Film and Best Actor.

Directed by Anirban Ray and starred by senior journalist Kabeer Yousuf, the award-winning production discusses a controversial story of media propaganda, terrorism and Islamophobia.

The movie, which was shot over three days only, started with American author Mark Twain’s famous quote: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

The story takes place in imaginary land of ‘North Arabia’, where a single father, known for his kindness and truthfulness, sends his only son Bilal to London to complete his higher education.

The story starts shaping when the English capital sees a horrific terror attack which left tens dead and many injured.

All fingers then point to a “Muslim college student”, and Bilal’s father lives in fear and isolation after he fails to communicate with his son.

 

Few day later, innocent, falsely accused Bilal calls his dad, reassuring him that he is safe and that is coming back soon to his hometown.

The whole story is then sent to an editor of an English daily, who refuses to publish it, citing “good news is not news.”

The budget movie was highly praised by the viewers. Anirban Ray said that “working with like-minded people who are passionate about films” spared him the cost “except for the occasional shawarma breaks, there was no cost at all.”

The seasoned director has made more than 25 movies in his last seven years in the Sultanate.

Inspired by Russian directors, pioneers of movie editing, Arinban used different footage of London to create the movie, which stood out from 24 other entries in the regional award ceremony.

Asked why the renowned, historic souq of Muttrah was chosen as the film location, Kabeer yosuf said there is no place like the Souq to “reflect the traditional and modern face of Oman,”

“The movie sheds light on how societies can come out of this thinking pattern of Islam. The entire concept is to show that not every Bilal is a villain,” he explained.

“However,” Kabeer says “of course there are villain Bilals, but there are villains of all religions, but you never hear a terrorist of other religion, the term is only used against Muslims.”

“A knife attack in a college is terrorism, the term means taking something to an extreme level,” Kabeer added.

While Kabeer was very keen on addressing the issue of responsible journalism, Arinban on the other hand was skeptical about it at first.

“We later decided to do it when I observed how western and some Asian media, falsely victimize a person. And when they come to know that the story is not true, they do not apologize, and the character’s image and hard work gets damaged,” he said.

“I was emotionally attached to this movie because Kabeer’s acting very convincing,” he said.

The cast announced that they are working on a new movie called ‘Azan’, which will be on a religious imam and his rock star son.