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Lebanon: Disney's apparent use of footage from Beirut port blast sparks outrage

Online users criticise makers of upcoming sci-fi film for appearing to use footage from 2020 explosion in trailer just days before anniversary
A scene from the trailer of 'The Creator', which social media users say resembles the Beirut explosion (Screengrab/20th Century Studios)

The trailer for a highly anticipated sci-fi movie has caused an uproar online for its apparent usage of footage from the deadly 2020 port explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.

Social media users aired their frustrations over the “ill-advised” and “bad-taste” decision to refurbish clips from the explosion in the trailer for The Creator (2023) just weeks before the third anniversary of the tragedy, on 4 August.

:"Exploiting real-life tragedy for entertainment is fucking disgusting," one user said, posting side-by-side images from the Lebanon explosion and the film trailer. "This is both offensive and lazy." 

The blast killed at least 200 people and injured about 6,000 others, and destroyed swaths of the Lebanese capital. It continues to impact many in Lebanon today, with families of victims and rights groups still demanding answers and justice as an investigation into the incident continues to be blocked by political wrangling.

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Similarities between the trailer and Beirut explosion were first noticed by a Reddit user on 17 July, but started being shared widely after US production studio Corridor posted a video analysing the frames in the trailer, noting the drastic similarities to footage from the blast. 

"You can see behind the CGI futuristic buildings are the exact buildings [from Lebanon]," they say.

Middle East Eye has reached out to 20th Century Studios, the distributor of the film, for comment.

One user expressed their disappointment, writing: “I’m really saddened by what the makers of the new upcoming A.I. Sci-Fi film 'The Creator' did… The shot of the explosion consuming the city is a reworking of real life Beirut explosion footage! Not cool guys!”

Another user noted that while there could have been a tight schedule and difficulty in creating certain scenes, use of the footage was “super cringe”, adding that films are supposed to be used to “escape reality”. 

One tweet said that the film "looked great up until this point. People died, Hollywood cashed in.”


Others users discussed Hollywood's past usage of real-world disasters, with one writing: “Using the Beirut blast as reference. A decision I doubt ‘The Creator’ production or Edward’s had any involvement in. I guess an ill-advised decision by the CGI team. But also, I doubt this is the only time a team has referenced a real-world disaster for their own work.”

Another accused the film of hypocritical use of non-western material for entertainment: “As usual, your suffering is only real and worth respecting if you’re white.”

When the Spider-Man live action movie was released in 2002, with Americans still reeling from the 9/11 attacks, a scene featuring the Twin Towers led to the removal of the trailer

Many have criticised the fact that insensitivities to non-western viewers have always been ripe in the western film industry, from cultural appropriation to lack of representation.

In 2021, the award-winning Dune was largely inspired by Middle Eastern and North African culture, landscapes and material, and was also filmed in Jordan. However, critics of the film said it engaged in “cinematic Arab appropriation”. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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