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Hollywood Politics

A new tale is coming out of Hollywood, but it’s not clear whether it’s an international thriller or a Tinseltown farce.

As aspiring screenwriter Jason Ressler tells it, he never expected that the events described in his script, involving a terrorist plot and unseemly Saudi businessmen’s double dealings in America, would materialize in the real world. But that’s exactly what happened, he says, when “Dove Hunting” was shelved after a Saudi sheikh and an American of Palestinian descent came on as financiers for the newly formed independent film company The Film Department. “One of the bad guys in the film is a Saudi prince. Because it’s very realistic, it must have hit home,” Ressler told The Shmooze.

Sources inside The Film Department, however, paint a starkly different picture. They say that the problem is just sour grapes because Ressler’s screenplay, which was never actually in development, was dropped after former Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures executive Mark Gill, who heads up The Film Department, read a couple of versions and was simply not interested. Furthermore, company sources say, their financial backers have no control over which projects get green-lighted and which get killed.

As first reported last week in the New York Post, the backers in question are Sheikh Walid al-Ibrahim, an owner of the al-Arabiya news network (the network was temporarily banned in 2003 by the American-backed Iraqi Governing Council after it broadcast a purported audiotape of Saddam Hussein inciting violence against Americans), and Zeid Masri, best known for fronting some of Yasser Arafat’s American investments, including money funneled to Manhattan’s Bowlmor Lanes. A third major investor — the one raising eyebrows on hawkish pro-Israel blogs — is General Electric. Critics are wondering why GE would do business with these guys.

The Film Department sources counter that al-Ibrahim and Masri were thoroughly researched and that they had passed muster with the company, as well as with GE. Furthermore, they say, it was none other than a prominent New York Jewish businessman who first introduced Gill to Masri.

GE did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Ressler, however, who says he did as many as four rewrites of his script before Gill backed off, is not shy about trumpeting his outrage: “My script got killed for politics.”

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