I WAS finally able to watch "The Kingdom" Wednesday night after I got my hands on a DVD copy of the film. Arab News has run many articles on the new Peter Berg action-thriller film starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner, about a crack FBI team that is allowed into Saudi Arabia for only five days after bloody attack on a Western housing compound in Riyadh.
The movie has unfortunately been banned in Kuwait and Bahrain for allegedly not being accurate. The film does combine elements from the 1996 Alkhobar bombing of the US military with the 2003 attack on a housing compound in Riyadh. But I call that artistic license, and in my book that is okay as long as the wider picture is basically right, which it is.
The movie begins with an informative montage showing the beginning of US-Saudi relations that began with the discovery of oil in the Kingdom by Americans in 1931, all the way through President Franklin D. Roosevelt's meeting with King Abdul Aziz in 1945 aboard a US warship on the Bitter Lake in Egypt, to clips of former Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Bandar ibn Sultan speaking about Al-Qaeda and terrorism on CNN's Larry King show.
I found Foxx's extended bonding sessions with his young son, and Garner's excessive like of lollipops, annoying. The Saudi prince shown in the film is much too young, but apart from these minor quibbles, I found the film to be gripping and accurate in its portrayal of the Kingdom's fight against terrorism. Sure it focuses too much on the American FBI team, but hey this is an American movie after all. If we Saudis had a movie industry to speak of, we could have made our own films on this topic. Unfortunately we do not, and Abu Dhabi and the Arizona desert had to double as Saudi Arabia, since the film was not allowed to be shot in the Kingdom.
The government should seriously consider allowing foreign filmmakers access to filming here in the Kingdom, if this country wants a more realistic and balanced view of this country and society portrayed to the rest of the world. Keeping foreigners out, including film crews, only breeds suspicion and fuels negative stereotypes of Saudi Arabia, something we certainly don't need more of.