Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Geography (MS)

Degree Level





Fiona Davidson

Committee Member

Thomas Paradise

Second Committee Member

Jason Tullis


American Southwest, Desert, Doubling, Representation


Representation of cinematic geography is a struggle in the world of film: a power balance between the work of the filmmakers and the place itself. Often, the filmmakers tip the scales in their favor and the true nature of the place is lost in translation. Throughout the history of cinema, the geography of the Middle East has been manipulated into a vision designed for Western audiences that is strikingly disjointed from reality.

The foundation of modern Orientalist interpretations of the Middle East in film can be seen in the early decades of the film industry, through the “Biblical Epic,” and in modern geopolitical depictions. This intertwining of geographic place and themes developed a violent vision of the Middle East that has remained the foundation of what we currently understand to be the region in film.

Studying these early film locations that served as masks for the Middle East illuminates the history of the location on film, even the films that were shot in the true Middle East. The visual history of the region in film can be seen through direct comparison of the physical geographic regions of the Middle East and American Southwest and the ways both were used.