This coming January, the Hollywood treatment of the controversial 2011 Benghazi attack that killed 4 Americans will make its debut in theaters across the country. 13 Hours, directed by Michael Bay and starring John Krasinski as Navy SEAL Jack da Silva, will be released on January 15th and with only a synopsis and trailer to go off of, American moviegoers may not know how to feel about this film yet. However, some voices within Libya sure do.
According to the AP, the trailer for 13 Hours has caused an outcry of disapproval and anger from many Benghazi nationals. After the trailer was passed around on Libyan social media, locals and officials have been vocal of their detestation of it. Libya’s second largest city remains one of the most chaotic and war-torn areas in the country even after the ousting and subsequent death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, so as tension remains it’s no wonder that the trailer has stoked the flames that still burn there.
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Most of the negative Libyan sentiment is towards how the trailer, and ultimately Bay, depicts the people and ‘look’ of Benghazi, as well as the appearance of the events that take place in those two and half minutes of the trailer. Salah Belnaba, Libya’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, feels that 13 Hours depicts the Benghazi people as “fanatical and ignorant,” contradicting the people’s longstanding desire to “be part of the international community.” “The decor designers got it all wrong. This looks nothing like Benghazi and the building looks nothing like the real consulate,” says Benghazi photographer Mohamed el-Theib.
Some of the harsher sentiment is more politically-charged and takes a hard stance against the Western politics that collided with the North African country. An unnamed writer from the Libyan blog Journal of a Revolution wrote “It seems that this entire movie boils down to the spoiled bickering of Americans as they grapple for power, using the murder of a good man to gain political leverage over one another. Between all this, a beautiful city, my city, is reduced to so much hyperbole in a debate that lost relevance long ago.”
WATCH: The 13 Hours Red Band Trailer
However, with all this said it’s important to separate what is simply (yet understandably) premature politically-charged judgement from what is critical and contextual thinking. The world has only been exposed to two and half minutes of a most likely over ninety minute film and although the aesthetical and narrative gist is on display, it’s too early to say what exactly will be portrayed and how. Disapproval continues to gather though. Benghazi resident Mohamed Kawiri wrote a Facebook post amongst hundreds calling for the boycott of the film, “We will not allow the American media to destroy our reputation (using) the film industry.” Kawiri also goes on to express his concern that the film will only credit the Americans and not show “the Benghazi locals who fought the militias (that stormed the consulate).”
With a film depicting a controversial multi-national subject, and a director at the helm who is notorious for painting over his work with a coat of patriotism, it’s expected that 13 Hours will garner a measure of negative scrutiny. One will simply have to hope that Mr. Bay’s film is sensitive towards the foreign nation where the events of his domestic film took place. An unbiased and multicultural film would serve viewers in both the US and Libya well, hopefully as an solid inquiry into the events and possibly easing the emotional tension and misunderstandings that still exist between two countries thousands of miles apart.