Homeland: Will Lebanon Sue Showtime Producers over Beirut Portrayal?

The version of the city seen in the award-winning television show is inaccurate and harmful, say Lebanese government ministers

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Ronen Akerman/SHOWTIME

The Showtime thriller Homeland won Outstanding Drama Series at this year’s Emmy Awards — but now the drama surrounding the show, which stars Claire Danes as a CIA officer, has moved off the screen. Because of a Beirut-centric story arc that features scenes of violence on the city’s central thoroughfare, Hamra Street, the country of Lebanon is taking action against the show’s producers. Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud recently told Executive magazine, a Lebanese publication, that he would demand an apology from the show’s creators over a depiction that is “not portraying reality” and may, he fears, damage tourism in a city he calls “more secure than London or New York” but that has struggled to shed its association with civil violence; Abboud, who said he would take action privately if the government was not procedurally able to do so, also vowed to start a lawsuit against Homeland’s production team.

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Speaking on the matter to the Associated Press, Abboud went on to specify that he sees an additional slight in the Homeland version of Beirut: that’s not actually Beirut audiences are seeing on their screens. The controversial scenes were shot in Tel Aviv, in the Jaffa neighborhood, which bears some physical resemblance to the Lebanese capital. Homeland — which was created by Gideon Raff, the Israeli writer-director behind its Israeli precursor, Hatufim (Prisoners of War), who is not allowed to go to Lebanon because of his nationality — doesn’t manage to scrub every trace of Israel from the final episode, which includes a peek of one of Tel Aviv’s most famous skyscrapers. The decision to turn to one of Lebanon’s traditional enemies in order to film a sequence that is seen to portray Lebanon in a negative light was called a “double insult” on Lebanon’s main television news network, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Israeli officials and citizens interviewed by the Associated Press didn’t seem much happier about the swap-out but tended to couch that displeasure in a backhanded compliment: the idea that Beirut should be pleased that anyone thinks it could be compared to Tel Aviv. Neither Showtime nor 20th Century Fox, which produces Homeland, have responded to the matter.

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