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Islamabad is not a place of intrigue and espionage. It is, on the contrary, "a quiet, picturesque city with beautiful mountains and lush greenery." This was the enticing description given by Pakistani diplomats in complaining about the American television drama Homeland. The fourth series of the programme depicts a CIA agent operating in Islamabad amid danger and violence in combating terrorist activity. The Pakistan government is irked at the insinuation that the country's capital city is a "hellhole".

This is fair enough. The series -- which is, in fact, filmed in Cape Town -- might have stressed the regular grid-like urban planning of Islamabad or the verdant forests of the Margalla mountain range, to the north of the city. Instead, the programme makers chose to depict a forbidding landscape. Realism demands a more responsible approach and to further that cause I suggest some necessary revision to the oeuvre of cinema and television.

Admirers of Frank Capra's quintessential Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life may not realise that its fictional city of Bedford Falls is widely believed to be modelled on Seneca Falls in New York. In the film, it has to share billing with the dark and forbidding place of Pottersville in the protagonist's alternative reality. Why should it be the obligation of the viewer to distinguish a fictional portrayal from a real-life oasis of urban calm? Capra's creation at least requires a disclaimer pointing out that the events and places portrayed are not real.

Similarly, Carol Reed's The Third Man enjoys critical acclaim, yet those who love Vienna will be appalled at the film's lingering depiction of an underground sewage network, as if this were representative of the city's noble architecture.

Film noir is all very well, but the literal-minded have rights and reasonable expectations not to be misled. Creative artists should heed them.

Bahrain film buff

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jan 3, 2015
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