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Why Morocco went Hollywood

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Morocco's film trade embodies many of the contradictions facing this modernizing Muslim nation. Here, camera-friendly vistas conceal endemic poverty; the stability loved by studios issues from a king who brooks little dissent; and one of the Arab world's more tolerant, peaceful countries has embraced an industry that dwells consistently on the region's violence.

"Body of Lies," "Stop-Loss," and the upcoming Matt Damon vehicle "Green Zone" are just a few of the Iraq war films made here since the conflict began. The pattern vexes Jack Shaheen, the Lebanese-American author of "Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs After 9/11" and other books critiquing Arab media stereotypes.

"These images represent everything Morocco is not," Dr. Shaheen says. "They're the same images that are repeated over and over again, so that when people hear the word Arab or Muslim, they automatically think violence."

Moroccan officials insist audiences are savvy enough to distinguish between life and art. "Let's be a little bit adult about this – it's fiction," says Nour Eddine Sail, director of the Moroccan Film Center, a government agency that regulates the film trade. And there are few incentives for thinking otherwise. "If we refuse a film, nothing stops an American producer from making it in a studio," Mr. Sail says.

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