A Chinese action movie that has Jackie Chan on board as executive producer is catching flak for one of its film locations: a Syrian town leveled and largely empty after years of civil war and ISIS occupation. The Guardian reports the film Home Operation is "inspired by China’s evacuation of hundreds of its nationals from Yemen in 2015," with director Song Yinxi saying the joint venture between Chinese and UAE production companies is "intended to glorify the Chinese Communist Party." After deciding it wasn't safe enough to film in Yemen, the town of al-Hajar al-Aswad near Damascus was selected.
The town functioned as a rebel stronghold early in Syria's civil war. Per the Telegraph, it was also the site of a notorious government checkpoint where at least 156 civilians were detained, never to be heard from again. ISIS took the area in 2015, and the Assad regime recaptured it in 2018, but only after Russian airstrikes helped turn it into rubble. Syrian activists and others were appalled to see it used as a low-budget movie set.
"It is shameful to film such films on the ruins of Syrian homes that were destroyed by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran," Syrian journalist Fared Al Mahlool told the New Arab. "The Chinese fascist regime is an ally of Syria, and they are trying to whitewash their crimes in actions like this." According to the New Jerusalem Post, the rest of the movie will be shot elsewhere in the Middle East, including the UAE. (Read more Jackie Chan stories.)