An Al Jazeera investigative programme has revealed the details behind the production of a Hollywood film co-produced by an Emirati film company that has been derided as “immoral” and “absurd” for portraying Qatar as a “terrorist state”.
The Misfits, co-produced, filmed, and financed by the UAE-based FilmGate Production in partnership with Paramount Pictures and Highland Film Group, tells the story of savvy thief Richard Pace, played by Pierce Brosnan, who escapes from a high-security US prison and goes on to steal millions from the world’s most secure facilities.
An Al Jazeera investigation, reported by Tamer al-Mishal in the latest episode of the show What’s Hidden is Greater aired on Sunday, revealed how the original script of the film was transformed into propaganda against Qatar.
According to the investigation, The Misfits – released in the US in June – mentions Qatar more than 15 times, and names real Qatari personalities and institutions including Emadi Hospital, the country’s “Lekhwiya” police force, and Al Jazeera.
The film also refers to Qatar as “Jazeeristan” and accuses its citizens of supporting “terrorist organisations” while Abu Dhabi’s mercenaries are depicted as heroes.
The film’s script portrays Qatar-based Egyptian Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as “the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the sponsor of global terrorism”.
A Doha News report published in June cited Egyptian journalist Mohamed Nasser as saying in a video posted online that The Misfits was nothing more than an attempt by the UAE to “destroy Qatar’s reputation”.
A Twitter user, who watched a leaked copy of the movie at the time, described it as “absurd” and not worthy of feedback.
Amending the script
In a leaked exchange, Emirati producers reportedly asked the US production company to amend the script to include more political topics and propaganda against Qatar.
According to Al Jazeera’s al-Mishal, a message sent to the US producers demanded that a Qatari human rights advocate, Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaimi, be mentioned by name in the film and that Qaradawi “get an acting scene as well”.
Although the film was shot in the UAE, it was reportedly edited to appear to have been filmed in Qatar.
Financial backing for the film was also reportedly provided by a company owned by UAE’s national security adviser and son of UAE’s founder, Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, revealed the investigation.
According to the investigation, Rami Jaber, executive producer and co-star of The Misfits, has filed a lawsuit against Emirati partners at a US court following a disagreement over the content of the film.
A leaked audio clip obtained by Al Jazeera showed the Emirati producer Mansoor al-Dhaheri, founder and CEO of FilmGate Productions and Al Kalema Productions, offering Jaber large sums of money in exchange for him dropping the lawsuit.
“I’m offering you more. Everything is OK from my side, I don’t have any problems. Some $100 million isn’t an issue for me,” said Dhaheri in the recording.
Dhaheri initially agreed to a request by al-Meshal to be interviewed for the programme, but later did not take al-Meshal’s calls.
In a letter seen by Al Jazeera, al-Daheri’s Al Kalema company also requested modifications of the original script of the film to include mentions of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
According to the investigation, American actor Wesley Snipes reportedly rejected an Emirati offer to star in the film due to its politicised content directed against Qatar.
The film’s release came just months after Qatar and its neighbours renewed ties after more than three years of a blockade imposed on Doha by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE in 2017.
Qatari and UAE officials held their first meeting since the detente in February this year. In January, the UAE resumed air and sea entry points to Qatar.