‘Dune’ Adaptation Accused of Erasing Middle Eastern Actors

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Sep 10, 2020

The highly anticipated 2020 version of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel “Dune” dropped its trailer Wednesday (September 9) on Twitter, and it features a star-studded cast that includes Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Chang Chen and more.


Though the adaptation, premiering December 2020, was directed by Academy Award-nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) and shot on location in Budapest, Hungary and Jordan, according to IndieWire, not everyone was excited about the trailer. German filmmaker Lexi Alexander, whose father is Palestiniantweeted her dismay that a film that focused on Middle Eastern culture featured zero Middle Eastern actors.


Herbert’s epic science fiction series tells the tale of a galactic battle between two royal houses and is said to borrow heavily from Arab cultures. Journalist Hanna Flint published an article last year for SyFy that spells out obvious connections. “Frank Herbert’s sci-fi fantasy is one of the most celebrated novels of the last century and a lot of its characters, language, social theory, and religious imagery were borrowed from Arab and Islamic culture,” Flint wrote. She also concluded the article with, “Please don’t erase us.”

Yet that is the very beef Alexander has with the latest “Dune” iteration. As part of a series of tweets on the subject, the director explained: 

Just like every other culture and community has talented actors. They’re only “Mohammed so-and-so” to you because you refuse to give them a chance. Every Chris was a Chris so-and-so before a director and a studio decided to cast them in a starring role. 


The only reason I’m still in this industry is so that I can change this. I will cast MENA actors left and right and they will be skaters and hair stylists and musicians and balloon salesmen and chefs and maybe I’ll throw the occasional boring doctor or engineer in as well


To see Alexander’s full series of tweets, where she offers up historical context for why “Dune” should have done better, see the posts below: