Tommy Lee Jones, left, Anne Archer and Samuel L. Jackson at April
SAN'A, Yemen - Calling it a "barbaric and racist attack against Arabs and Yemenis," Yemen's government on Thursday urged all Arab states to boycott the Hollywood blockbuster "Rules of Engagement."
The movie, which stars Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones, shows Yemenis clashing with and shooting U.S. Marines guarding their embassy.
Yemen has not had a riot against the United States in almost 10 years, and it says it is unfair to portray its people as anti-American. A letter the government sent to the Arab League on Thursday demanded the League boycott Paramount Pictures and the movie, a Foreign Ministry official said.
The film has not been released in the Arab world.
Yemen is still smarting from the deaths of four British and Australian tourists in December 1998. The men had been taken hostage by a Muslim extremist group and were killed in a botched rescue attempt.
Since then, the government has been at pains to protect foreign tourists, especially Americans, from tribes who kidnap foreigners to pressure the government into providing them with better living conditions. The hostages usually are treated like honored guests. Apart from the 1998 deaths, the captives have been released unharmed.
In "Rules of Engagement," which opened in the United States on April 7, an unruly crowd of Yemeni demonstrators is protesting at the American Embassy in the Yemeni capital, San`a. Helicopters deliver a Marine platoon to the site, where gunfire is heard.
Under fire, Col. Terry Childers (Jackson) leads the ambassador, his wife and young son to a helicopter, then returns to the embassy roof and finds that three of his Marines have been killed by demonstrators' guns. He orders his men to open fire. Eighty-three Yemeni men, women and children are killed.
In the film, Childers faces a court-martial for violating the rules of engagement by killing unarmed civilians. He chooses his former Vietnam comrade Col. Hays Hodges (Jones) to be his defense lawyer.
Paramount, which produced the movie, says "Rules of Engagement" is a fictional account of the consequences of extremism in all its forms.
"The film is not an indictment of any government, culture or people," a Paramount statement said.
But the movie has also drawn condemnation from Arab-American and Muslim-American groups in the United States, many of which have previously protested what they considered negative portrayals of Arabs in Hollywood films. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee released a statement calling Paramount's release "probably the most vicious anti-Arab racist film ever made by a major Hollywood studio."
There were voices in the Arab world that disagreed with the uproar, though.
Ibrahim al-Arees, a movie critic for the internationally published Arabic-language Al-Hayat daily, said Arabs should wait and see the movie before reacting.
"When it comes to American movies, there's a lot of prejudice in the Arab world, a lack of maturity and preconceived notions that America is made up of one bloc and that that bloc is anti-Arab," al-Arees said. "Some American movies have actually portrayed Arabs positively."