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0 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

The great thing about the day after the Academy Awards is that show-biz piffle goes into decline for a while. The spin has spun itself out.

Sure, the fashion magazines do their hit-and-miss photo spreads, featuring the frocks they liked and hated, but it's all over bar the wailing by some starlet who is left embarrassed and complaining, "What was I thinking?"

Maybe you begin to wonder what you missed when paying attention to all the Oscar nonsense. Well, last night, you didn't actually miss much. If you were in Toronto, for instance, an alternative to the Academy Awards was a "sizzling exclusive" on the bizarre Toronto One channel -- a sneak peek at The Toronto Sun's annual Winter Swimsuit edition. According to the breathless announcement from Toronto One, the special featured Canada's hottest swimwear model and, wait for it, Canada's hottest bartender, as chosen by a magazine called Urban Male Magazine, better known as UMM.

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Think about it -- if you feel kind of sleazy after watching the Academy Awards, imagine how you'd feel if you'd watched that sizzling special.

Now that the piffle has petered-out, it's time to consider more substantial matters. Consider this: We all live in a post-9/11 world, but what is it like to be a person whose first name is Osama?

Being Osama ( CBC, 9 p.m. on The Passionate Eye) is a rich portrait of the situation of many Arab-Canadians today. First-time filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour set out to document the backlash against Arab-Canadians in Montreal after Sept. 11. A mosque was attacked and anti-Arab graffiti appeared in the city. Then he hit on the excellent idea of exploring what it's like to be called Osama.

The men we meet in the documentary are a motley bunch. They are all ages, shapes, sizes, backgrounds and experiences. Some are Christian and some are Muslim. What most of them share, now, is difficulties travelling and the experience of shock and dismay from other people on hearing their name. The men were interviewed numerous times over a year and we hear their thoughts on everything from Sept. 11 itself to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Ossama el-Naggar, an Egyptian-Canadian, who's lived in Canada for more than two decades, says. "My name was stolen from me." A laidback man who is an opera expert and has a business importing classical-music CDs, this Ossama recounts telephone conversations with customers who are startled to hear his name. He's rueful, but alert to the undercurrents of unease that his mere name can launch. He says he really doesn't want to be identified as part of any group he doesn't choose himself.

Two of the Osamas here are musicians. Osama Shalabi, of Egyptian origin, grew up in Atlantic Canada and composed the soundtrack for the documentary. He's the only one who goes by the name "Sam." Then there is Ossama Al-Sarraf, who wears dreadlocks and wants to be a rock star. Both are young and artistic, and what's striking is that they would be defined by their Canadian-ness if it weren't for the name that now brings attention to them.

Being Osama is marvellously crafted as an intricate portrait of the wild differences between the men's attitudes to their backgrounds. It's a layered look at the Arab-Canadian experience. At the end, one Osama just wants out of Canada. You can't blame him, given the circumstances. But after watching the documentary you are left hoping that Canada, of all places, should be the natural home for lots of men named Osama and that here in this country, the name would never be an issue.

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Also airing tonight: Rick Mercer's Monday Report (CBC, 8 p.m.) features Rick doing some hockey thing with Don Cherry and some ballet thing with Veronica Tennant. American Idol (Fox, CTV, 8 p.m.) continues its breezy journey toward the climax, when only a handful of finalists are left. However, I am reliably informed that the smart money is on Nadia to win it all. I'm also informed that Nadia sings in a Rock Christian Soul band and that she thinks Idol judge Simon Cowell is "hot." The things one learns.

CSI: Miami (CBS, CTV, 10 p.m.) is about pirates, guns and dead people, apparently. In the midst of it all is David Caruso as Horatio Crane. I mention this because you might get another look at Caruso this week. ABC's NYPD Blue ends its run on Tuesday, 10 p.m. and is preceded by a one-hour Tribute special at 9 p.m. Caruso emerged as a star when NYPD Blue first arrived, 12 years ago. He was superb in the early going, as a pale, troubled and terrifically testy New York detective. Now he overacts all the time.

Finally, a small addition to last Thursday's review of the dance film Elegy, featuring Karen Kain. I am informed that the creative producer was René-Claude Riendeau and that René should have been mentioned along with the other talent credited.

Dates and times may vary across the country. Please check listings or visit

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