One of the more controversial and polarizing films at this year's Sundance Film Festival (and last year's Toronto fest) was Towelhead, a dark and uncomfortable comedy about a 13-year-old Lebanese-American girl living in Texas during the first Gulf War. It was directed by Alan Ball, who showed with American Beauty (which he wrote) and HBO's Six Feet Under (which he created) that he has a knack for finding humor in the sinister corners of suburbia.

The film is set for limited release on Sept. 12 (here's Cinematical's review from Toronto), and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on Warner Bros. to change the title before it comes out. A press release from the Greater Los Angeles Area office of CAIR said, "The word ('towelhead') is commonly used in a derogatory manner against people of the Muslim faith or Arab origin." Furthermore: "The use of such a derogatory term by a major film studio will serve to increase its acceptability in public discourse."

Really, CAIR? "Towelhead" is a slur? Then I wonder why the filmmakers would use it as a title -- unless -- you don't think -- nah -- could it be that the whole point of the movie is that this girl is trying to find her identity, and that "Towelhead" is one of the epithets she has to deal with while living in a redneck town during the Gulf War? Could it be that one of the movie's messages is that slurs like that are unacceptable? Could it be that only the most bigoted and idiotic of viewers could come out of it thinking, "I'm gonna start sayin' 'towelhead' more often!"?

CAIR has suggested that the film revert to the title under which it played at Toronto, Nothing Is Private. That title fits the story, too, but Towelhead is more direct -- and, more to the point, it's the title of the book on which the movie is based. The novelist, Alicia Erian, who also wrote the screenplay, is Arab-American. She told The Hollywood Reporter that she chose the title "to highlight one of the novel's major themes: racism."

I think CAIR's objections could be remedied by simply watching the movie. Over the course of it, the girl (played amazingly by Summer Bishil) comes to feel empowered and confident in who she is. She overcomes the slurs and the harassment, and she embraces her identity as an Arab-American and as a young woman. To complain about the title is to miss the forest because you're too busy looking at the trees. I think people who have actually seen the film understand that.