November 5, 1998
Director Under ‘Siege’
Ed Zwick is criticized for his portrayal of Arabs in his latest film
Critics are charging that his new film, "The Siege," in which the government incarcerates Arab Americans after Middle Eastern terrorists detonate bombs in New York City, dangerously stereotypes Arab and Moslem Americans. Some may even picket the movie.
Zwick, during a Jewish Journal interview, insisted that the film promotes tolerance, and that "one must be careful not to generalize about Arab Americans, or to visit the sins of the few upon the many."
As a Jew, he said, he is "sensitive to issues of oppression and persecution"; his grandfather, after all, escaped Polish pogroms at the age of 12.
The director, for his part, became a bar mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue in Winnetka, Ill.; he began directing plays at Harvard, but, prodded by his Republican businessman father, he reluctantly applied to Harvard law school. Ironically, it was a prominent law professor who, over tea, convinced Zwick to follow his artistic muse. Shortly thereafter, he was off to Europe on a Rockefeller Fellowship to study experimental theater, to his parents' chagrin.
When the young Zwick came across Woody Allen strolling alone in Paris, he "accosted" the director and begged to hang out on the set of "Love and Death." Allen rewarded him with a job as an assistant on the movie, and Zwick's career was off.
Today, he is perhaps best known as the co-creator of "thirtysomething," the yuppie TV saga of interfaith couple Hope and Michael Steadman, based, in part, on his own interfaith marriage.
Since the TV series, he said, he has dedicated his career to movies "that hold a mirror up to American institutions and issues."
"The Siege," therefore, "is about us, or who we could possibly become," he said.