The Fairy Princess was feeling ok about her last blog – which was published this morning, and she thought she had, like a hot second of respite from the abject foolishness that is show business.
She was wrong.
According to an article in The Guardian, screenwriter David Franzoni, who wrote the blockbuster film, GLADIATOR which starred Russell Crowe – and which, btw, though not historically accurate, was an enjoyable film – has a new project.
The subject of the new film is the 13th century poet Jalaluddin al-Rumi.
Rumi was a Persian poet, born in what today is known as Afghanistan. He was an Islamic scholar and a Sufi mystic. His writing has been translated and appreciated the world over since the 13th century! Go on with your bad self, Rumi!
Rumi believed in the the use of poetry, music, and dance as a path for reaching God.
Let’s look at some Rumi quotes in case you are unfamiliar with his writing.
“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.”
“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
“When I am with you, we stay up all night. When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep. Praise God for those two insomnias! And the difference between them.”
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Sounds like a great guy!
Does Rumi merit a biopic?
Absolutely – this is a great choice for a biopic. Rumi was a spiritual man who was both scholar and artist and his life has touched millions of people since the 13th Century. He escaped the Mongol invasion, traveled widely, and finally settled in Turkey, where he passed from old age.
Two of his works, the Masnavi and the Divan, are considered among the best poetry ever written, so yeah, of course – give this man’s story the full Hollywood treatment – especially now, when we could all benefit from the story of this Sufi teacher – a man of peace and love, who meets the fellow with whom he has conversations that change both his life and his poetry.
This should be a win!
This should be more than a win, this should be a happy dance kind of time!
Rather specifically, it should be a Sufi swirling dance kind of time!
But it’s not.
Sadly, screenwriter Franzoni and producer, Stephen Joel Brown definitely want to give Rumi the full ‘Hollywood’ treatment.
They want Leonardo DiCaprio to play Rumi.
They would also like Robert Downey Jr. to play Shams of Tabriz.
Who was an Iranian Muslim.
They want to, in full Hollywood tradition – erase the Middle Eastern roots of the men whose stories they want, so desperately, to tell!
This is what they say in The Guardian article:
“David Franzoni, who wrote the script for the 2000 blockbuster Gladiator, and Stephen Joel Brown, a producer on the Rumi film, said they wanted to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema by charting the life of the great Sufi scholar.”
They want to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in Western cinema, by having two stars of Western cinema who have no ethnic ties to the Middle East play the roles.
Well, that is pretty stereotypical – hate to break that to you, Mr. Franzoni.
It’s the erasure of ethnic people in the stories of their own lives.
It is the essence of what TFP always likes to say:
Oh sure, they ‘love’ the Rumi story. They ‘love’ it as source material.
What they are failing to ‘love’ is the very real point that these two men are ethnic men.
What they are failing to realize is that in 13th Century Afghanistan, as men who were religious scholars, their heritage both religious and ethnic played a vital part in their lives and influenced how they came to their work – work which is still selling, hundreds of years later!
Look, this film is not even written yet, the writer and producer are on their way to do research – and no, the two actors mentioned are not attached in any way – one hopes they would be too intelligent and too aware to agree to star in a film that is supposed to be about two men with Persian heritage.
If not, someone for the love of all that is holy please go and whisper these two titles in their ears “PRINCE OF PERSIA” and “GODS OF EGYPT” – should wake them up like a kimchi slap in late August.
This is the same issue that happened when the writer for Dr. Strange decided to give us all a lecture on the vagaries of casting an East Asian Actor, as he saw it – for which Marvel later smacked him with a wet noodle and made him apologize for – these writers do not see ethnic peoples as anything but source material for the basis of a script in which Caucasians will star.
This is a very real problem that is enabled by the entire way Hollywood writes and casts films.
It is a problem of entitlement. It is fueled by past successes and enormous egos, and there needs to be a reckoning.
That these two men feel quite comfortable in saying their end goal, to tell the story of one of the world’s greatest poets, includes having him played by a man with no Persian background, all to change the stereotypes of Muslims…
For announcing their intent to whitewash the roles of two of the most influential Muslim men who were ever born, TFP fines Mr. Franzoni and Mr. Brown to fifty whacks with the wand and a WGA diversity training session, which they are to be locked in like it’s a Scientology debriefing until they ‘get it’.
Seriously, Dudes…think about it – GODS OF EGYPT and PRINCE OF PERSIA, but you want to do the same damn thing…