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Homeland, or how Berlin put the boot back in Sabootage

The hit series "Homeland" filmed its fifth season in Berlin. But while Claire Danes was laying low in Charlottenburg during the shooting, some Arabic artists were sneakily inserting messages that turned out to be less than low-key.

Image for Homeland, or how Berlin put the boot back in Sabootage
“Homeland is racist”. Photo courtesy of the artists

When Claire Danes, aka Homeland agent Carrie Mathison, was in Berlin filming season five over the summer, she was all but invisible. It was only after the fact that the world found out she’d discovered Berghain (let in through the back door, no less). In the meantime, though, all we got were rumours of castings in Kreuzberg and sightings in Charlottenburg (it would have to be Berlin West of course, for some true, old school, spying cachet). Specifically, Ms. Danes was spotted on Carmerstraße off Savignyplatz, “going in and out of a house.” Somebody else was also going in and out. Maybe just for a mani-pedi? You can get a great mani-pedi in Charlottenburg.

If only the research staff at Homeland had this kind of time on their hands. Instead, shortcuts were the order of the day when, in June 2015, the Homeland production team had to put together a Syrian refugee set on the outskirts of Berlin and thought to themselves, hey, stones CAN talk, and got in touch with a group of graffiti artists comprising Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and an artist who goes by the name of – yes, of course – Stone. Known also as Arabian Street Artists, their brief was to create some ‘apolitical’ faux camp graffiti to authenticate the set.

Despite the bubble bath of awards, Homeland has its critics – and was even dubbed “the most bigoted show on television” by Laura Durkey in the Washington Post. A sentiment evidently endorsed by Arabian Street Artists, who used the graffiti opp to sneak in a few not-so-subtextual comments of their own. When the episode in question aired last week in the US, Arabic-proficient viewers were interested to read that “Homeland is NOT a series” and “Homeland is racist”. Or even, that “Homeland is a joke and it didn’t make us laugh.”

Image for Homeland, or how Berlin put the boot back in Sabootage
Photo: Screenshot / Showtime

You’d think that with its Middle Eastern, Islam-centric storyline, Homeland management would have sprung for an Arabic specialist to check out not only details like this, but provide the in-depth background research on the considerable intricacies of the terror situation in the Middle East that precludes the stereotypical Homeland superficiality targeted by Arabian Street Artists.

The Homeland publicity department, however, does appear to have invested more heavily in publicity – with co-creator Alex Gansa stepping up quickly to assert that since Homeland strives to be subversive, “we can’t help but admire this act of artistic sabotage.” Nice try. This time, methinks, the publicity boot is definitely on the other foot.