The far-left, self-proclaimed social justice warrior Abigail Disney disavowed a documentary, that, among other things, exposes terrorism directed by a woman that she openly supported after Muslim critics lambasted it, forcing the Sundance Film Festival to rescind its invitation.
According to a lengthy report from the New York Times, the Sundance Film Festival invited filmmaker Meg Smaker to premiere her documentary feature Jihad Rehab, which centered on a Saudi Arabian rehabilitation center for accused terrorists but the festival rescinded its invitation after Muslim critics attacked the film for peddling “Islamaphobia.” Even though mainstream critics from Variety to The Guardian praised the film for its subtlety and willingness to find the humanity in men who may or may not have engaged in terrorism, Sundance ultimately backed out of screening the film the moment Muslim critics started crying foul. Per the Times:
Arab and Muslim filmmakers and their white supporters accused Ms. Smaker of Islamophobia and American propaganda. Some suggested her race was disqualifying, a white woman who presumed to tell the story of Arab men.
Ms. Smaker’s film has become near untouchable, unable to reach audiences. Prominent festivals rescinded invitations, and critics in the documentary world took to social media and pressured investors, advisers and even her friends to withdraw names from the credits. She is close to broke.
Many Arab and Muslim filmmakers — who like others in the industry struggle for money and recognition — denounced “Jihad Rehab” as offering an all too familiar take. They say Ms. Smaker is the latest white documentarian to tell the story of Muslims through a lens of the war on terror. These documentary makers, they say, take their white, Western gaze and claim to film victims with empathy.
Arab filmmaker Assia Boundaoui derided the film in an article for Documentary magazine while calling on festivals to allow Muslims to create “films that concern themselves not with war, but with life.”
“To see my language and the homelands of folks in my community used as backdrops for white savior tendencies is nauseating,” she wrote. “The talk is all empathy, but the energy is Indiana Jones.”
Abigail Disney, the grand-niece of Walt Disney and a far-left activist who regularly criticizes her family company for its treatment of workers, originally backed the film as an executive director but then rebuked the film once the backlash hit. In an open letter in February of this year, Disney publicly apologized to the Muslim community and recognized the “damage” she had inflicted.
“I call upon my colleagues now, whether you are gatekeepers, funders, curators, heads of institutions, agents, buyers, critics, or other filmmakers to rethink how we all behave when we are called out for our failures and shortcomings,” she wrote. “We need to recognize that we are all on the same side if what we are fighting for is a better, more human public square. This is not a war and an apology is not a failure.”
“If we choose to wield cultural power, we are consequently obliged to act with humility and a willingness to learn when we use our power—with or without intent–to create pain for the people we otherwise say we care about,” she added.
After Sundance rescinded the invitation, South by Southwest and other film festivals followed suit. According to Smaker, she has since maxed out her credit cards and even borrowed money from her parents to get by. Her only saving grace: the Doc Edge festival in New Zealand granted her a screening.
“I don’t have the money or influence to fight this out,” she told the Times. “I’m not sure I see a way out.”