Homeland sabotaged on own film set

The episode containing slogans criticising the Homeland series went unnoticed and was aired. Left: Arabic graffiti that reads "Homeland is racist".
The episode containing slogans criticising the Homeland series went unnoticed and was aired. Right: Arabic graffiti that reads "Homeland is racist".PHOTO: YOUTUBE

NICOSIA • Three graffiti artists hired by producers of hit TV drama Homeland to give its sets more realism caused embarrassment instead by using their artwork to accuse the show of racism.

Egyptian artist Heba Amin and two others - Caram Kapp and Stone - were asked to mark up the walls of a set depicting a Syrian refugee camp for the show's fifth season, which were filmed in Berlin.

They decided to use the chance to voice their displeasure with its depiction of people from the Middle East and Asia.

"Homeland's representation of people from the Arab and Muslim world... has on several occasions erred," Kapp told Agence France-Presse from Berlin.

"It has painted Muslims mainly as antagonists and the protagonists are allowed to torture and murder them."

Spoilers ahead: In the second episode of the Showtime series, which aired in the United States on Sunday, ex-CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) walks past a breeze- block wall on which is written in Arabic: "Homeland is racist". Other messages sprayed on the walls: "There is no Homeland" and "Homeland is not a show".

The subversive messages seemingly escaped the notice of the producers of the series. Other slogans called the show "a watermelon" - Arabic vernacular indicating something farcical - and included the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which has become the rallying cry of the US movement outraged over police killings of unarmed African Americans.

Kapp said producers gave them free rein over what they wrote, providing it was apolitical.

"Our intention with this was to generate a discussion," he said. "It was also a call for a more differentiated representation of people from the Middle East and South-east Asia."

Alex Gansa, co-creator of Homeland, acknowledged the ruse. "We wish we'd caught these images before they made it to air," he said in a statement.

"However, as Homeland always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can't help but admire this act of artistic sabotage."

The series had drawn derision in its second season for featuring a joint plot between Al-Qaeda and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah - two groups currently waging fierce battle against each other in Syria.

It also came under fire for filming episodes set in Beirut in Israel's Haifa, and its fourth season was lambasted by a Pakistani diplomat for depicting his country as a "hellhole".

Amin said that the series was easy to dupe, as there did not seem to be stringent fact-checking and that she had noticed many linguistic Arabic inaccuracies in the past.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Homeland sabotaged on own film set'. Print Edition | Subscribe