Sunday, March 8, 2009

Taken or Mistaken

I recently received an email from Barbara Tzetzo Gosch that raises an interesting issue: In the just released movie, TAKEN, Albanians are portrayed as the villains. Could this be the beginning of a trend? Please read her comments below and let us know what you think.

"Taken" or "Mistaken"

Has anyone seen the popular suspense thriller "Taken" currently being shown at movie theaters throughout the country? It stars the great Irish born actor, Liam Neeson, whom you may remember as the hero in "Schlindler's List"- Neeson helps Jews escape from the Nazis. In "Taken" Neeson again assumes the role of hero. This time he plays a father(retired from the CIA) trying to save his daughter who has been kidnapped by thugs and sold into the sex trade business.

Who are the bad guys in this movie? Albanians. Yes! They're the Albanian Mafia which appears to be the "New Albanian" image that the American public sees. While I saw ads for this movie on television, I didn't pay much attention to them. Later, through an email, a friend said she detested the plot of "Taken" and that it was a true story. I didn't believe that was correct."Taken " is not a true story, but it could be. In addition, I discovered that the translation of sugar in Albanian is incorrect.

Shortly after hearing from my friend, my son called from out of town. "Mom, you're not going to like this, " he said. "I was listening to NPR and I heard a movie review on "Taken" and they talked about these gangster,thug, Albanians." He was right. Not only was I upset by this ugly portrayal of Albanians, but I realized that whenever there is anything about Albania or Albanians by the media(TV or movies) it's negative. Remember the (1997) film"Wag the Dog" with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman? Albania was a joke. In a recent James Bond movie, the villian was Albanian, and in an episode of TV's "Law and Order," Albanians were depicted as part of the Albanian Mafia in New York. There is even a game out-you got it, Albanians are the bad guys again.

I want it understood that I believe in the First Amendment to the Constitution and freedom of speech. But, I also believe in taking pride in one's own culture and showing both sides. In my family, I grew up with ideas of Albanians standing for freedom and independence, along with a rich cultural heritage. Thus, I object to this unfavorable one-sided impression of Albanians often viewed in visual terms which is very effective in influencing people.

A friend asked (when I mentioned I was going to write on this topic) "Why do it? Look at the Italians. They lived with it." "But," I said with a sense of humor, "Italians have Tony Bennet and Old Blue Eyes (Sinatra). The list goes on and on. Furthermore, the Italian community has voiced objections about how they are portrayed(for years) in an unfavorable image. There have been other groups as well, such as, women, Native Americans and African Americans, etc. The list is endless.

Why doesn't our ethnic community speak up? Isn't it time so that we are not consistently "mis-taken" for who we are?

Barbara Tzetzo Gosch


At March 10, 2009 at 1:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Christo,

I had the pleasure of getting in contact with you thru email a couple of days ago.
I (being an Albanian) as well was outraged by the movie portraying the Albanians as the antagonists in this movie.
I wonder where and whom did the producers of this movie ask for permission to portray us in such as unfavorable light?.
Shouldn't we, Albanians, have control of our own opinion in the world?.
I hope Hollywood will soon realize that one day we will have had enough and want justice brought to us.
It seems that Hollywood has run-out of creative ideas and because we are relatively a small nation, it makes them play with our heritage.
Ignorant Hollywood!!!


At March 10, 2009 at 11:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right. Albanians are often portrayed in the mass media as bad guys. It's easy sometime for movie industry bad guys (producers of movie "Taken" in this case), to pick on the most vulnerable communities in the US, to fill in for their "bad guys" and "murder and criminal theme action suspense thrillers" characters in their productions. This has to change.

An effective network of organizations and institutions should be build, that would serve as watch dogs and protect human rights of Albanians and Albanian-American community in general, and also protect them against defamation (such the case of movie "Taken").

In the this concrete case, a first step would be to launch a protest against the movie by the NAAC and AACL, and ask for the movie to be halted and taken out of the market(friends of Ronald Reagan in the in the US Congress for example, were able to launch a successful campaign to block a movie about Reagan that portrayed him as a weak, diabolic and controversial character, who depended on everything - even for his decisions on government matters, on Nancy Reagan).

A public apology should be asked for from the company and producers of the movie "Taken".

Another step would be to bring a class-action lawsuit against the company and producers of the movie, asking for compensatory, defamation, collective emotional distress, and punitive monetary damages to be paid to the Albanian-American community in the US. This money can later be used to promote and create movie making and mass media education opportunities for the Albanian-American community's new generation. Also with this money, a movie (or movies) can be produced to depict Albanians and Albanian-American community in the US in their real light - as hard working, smart, high integrity and great contributors to the US society and economy in general.

At March 12, 2009 at 6:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellows, don't think only of Albanian Americans. Open your horizons and consider yourselves as rooted Albanians no matter where you live. As this movie hits Europe and the rest of the world, things may get worst for all Albanians that are still struggling to establish their personality, often portrayed quite badly by the media. That’s why more than ever we need to remind the world of Mother Teresa, Kadare, and others…………

At August 8, 2010 at 11:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that often potraying Albanians as the bad guys is outraging for themselves and maybe a kind of unfair.Despite that fact, they have to admit that a big percentage of them has provoked many problems including crime action to countries that respect and offer them accomondation and job.It is unacceptable many -not all of them- Albanians to be so inappreciative and ungrateful to these countries as mine,Greece, and requite them with ingratitude,thefts,robberies,murders,kidnapping,fates,rapes etc.I don't claim that other nations don't commit these awful crimes but we cannot except Albanians of them.


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