''Black Hawk Down'' soars to No. 1
BOX OFFICE REPORT It was not a good week to be a hobbit. Not only did ”The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” get shut out at the Golden Globes, but it also fell to No. 3 at the box office, bested not only by the wide release of ”Black Hawk Down,” but also by the canine kiddie comedy ”Snow Dogs.” Analysts predicted a ”Black Hawk” win, but not by so much. The story of the 1993 raid in Somalia that cost the lives of 18 U.S. soldiers and hundred of Somalis raked in an estimated $29 million, a record take for a Martin Luther King Day weekend. Despite the film’s intense combat scenes and unrelenting violence, the movie drew not only guys looking to see the latest Ridley Scott (”Gladiator”) action fest but also, according to Sony Pictures surveys, an audience that was 45 percent female. (Maybe they’re all Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor fans.)
”Snow Dogs,” which opened to what may be the most hostile reviews of Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn‘s careers, was still the only family option for kids who’d already seen ”Jimmy Neutron,” ”Harry Potter,” and ”Monsters, Inc.,” and it took in a larger-than-expected $17.5 million. ”Rings,” as predicted, had a modest drop of about a quarter of last week’s take, bringing in $13 million for third place. Close behind was ”A Beautiful Mind,” with $11 million and ”Orange County” with $9 million. Rounding out the top 10 were ”Ocean’s Eleven” (No. 6), ”The Royal Tenenbaums” (No. 7), ”Kate & Leopold” (No. 8), ”Gosford Park” (No. 9), and ”Vanilla Sky” (No. 10).
Not everyone is pleased with the way ”Black Hawk Down” portrays its central battle, with critics complaining about the racially troubling depiction of the Somali fighters as a faceless black mass of ”skinnies” (that’s what the film’s Americans call the famine-starved Somalis) picking off a group of mostly white U.S. soldiers. One activist group is calling for a boycott of the film, fearing that the movie may cause a backlash against Somali-Americans. ”We don’t know what Americans will think of us Somalis after they watch this movie,” says Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minn. ”The Somali people are depicted as very savage beasts without any human element. It’s just people shooting each other.”
Jamal tells the AP that Somali-Americans are already fearful after the post-Sept. 11 assault on a Somali man at a Minneapolis bus stop, an alleged hate crime for which no one has been charged. As a result, he says, ”The community is shocked and really afraid of the consequences of this movie.” Jamal, who lives among a community of 25,000 Somalis, believed to be the largest concentration in the U.S., says the film offers too little context about the civil war it depicts, and that his group planned to hand out leaflets that would fill in the details at local theaters showing the film.