‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting

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Olivia Munn is set to play the lead in feature drama “Aleppo.” (File/AFP)

“What is a UN journalist?” asked the Twitterverse on Friday after the announcement came that actress Olivia Munn would be playing a UN reporter alongside a Syrian refugee in the feature film titled “Aleppo.”

It’s been announced that US actress Olivia Munn is set to play the lead in the feature drama, a story about a Syrian refugee and UN journalist (Munn), who are brought together by their escape from war-afflicted Syria.

Many online users are concerned that the film will center on a Western journalist, while the Syrian refugee will simply be seen as an extra – given that the job of a UN journalist simply does not exist and will ironically be played by an actress known for her role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s hit show “The Newsroom.”

“Jesus Christ. Firstly, there’s no such thing as a ‘UN journalist’; secondly there was no UN in those last terrifying months of Aleppo, and the only journalists around were Syrians,” Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill tweeted.

“How any film about Aleppo can centre anyone but brave Syrians is insane. Who writes this s***?”

Nada Homsi, a Beirut-based Syrian reporter and producer for NPR tweeted: “Hello Hollywood I’m Syrian and a journalist and would love to become a movie star, so would many other Syrians, also ‘UN journalists’ aren’t a thing. Hire us!”

Others weren’t pleased with Munn’s casting, and have taken to social media to express their discontent.

“The onslaught on Aleppo was one of the most traumatic events for Syrians in Syria and for the diaspora,” wrote one user on Twitter following the news. “Spinning the tragedy to center it around some hypothetical journalist for a Westerner to star in is disgusting,” they added.

Another user wrote: “Oh yay a ‘Syrian refugee drama’ that is actually about a white lady. Just what we need, another white savior movie.”

“Just call it ‘The White Savior,’ why muck about?” added another.

“Aleppo,” which is currently in pre-production in Los Angeles, will be directed by Brazilian filmmaker David Schurman.

The casting of the Syrian starring character has yet to be announced.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, many films and documentaries have been made about the tragedy, including “For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab’s critically-acclaimed documentary.

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