mbrstudio


A Charlotte-based film company specializing in educational, historical, and social-interest documentaries and narrative features, as well as client services for institutions, small-businesses, and non-profit organizations


She was an award-winning American spy, 

a veteran CIA covert operator working in the Middle East

 during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, 

when she fell in love with a handsome Saudi diplomat

 and left the Agency to marry him.  

Like all heroes, she was both a risk-taker and a romantic. 

Her courage never betrayed her, but her heart quite possibly did.


American Bedu: The Story of Carol Fleming an American Spy, is a feature-length (90 min) documentary about a young woman born in Espyville, Pennsylvania, in 1959, who boasted as a child that she was going to work for the CIA. An early marriage and motherhood seemed to make that unlikely, but a chance encounter with a CIA recruiter at a cocktail party in Washington, DC, put the goal back within reach. Carol began as an office clerk in Langley and worked her way up through the grueling and competitive Agency ranks to be the only field officer in CIA history to win a prestigious award for gathering foreign intelligence two years in a row. Then, when close to retirement and despite being highly successful in recruiting assets in the home-turf of many of the 9/11 terrorists, she suddenly left the CIA to marry a dashing Saudi diplomat. Given the circumstances, their relationship was viewed as a conflict-of-national-interest; and when asked to choose between duty and love, Carol chose him. Their happily-ever-after was short-lived, however. They both developed deadly cancers within months of one another in Saudi Arabia in 2008—possibly by tragic coincidence, possibly by environmental factors no one consciously manipulated. Although proud of her career as a spy, Carol dedicated her energies during the rest of her life to peacemaking and building bridges of cultural understanding between Muslims and Christians. 
"Bedu" is short for "Bedouin," a member of the nomadic tribes of the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa. "American Bedu" was the affectionate nickname Carol's Saudi husband gave her after they visited the rural Pennsylvania town she came from. Like a nomad, she had been to 120 countries since she left Espyville PA to become a spy. And "American Bedu" is what she named her popular blog, because it signified her affection for the Middle East and her dedication to building bridges between cultures and traditions as a way to end ignorance and extremism.
https://youtu.be/ORdJVF1siAc
Above: Follow these links (or copy and paste URL into your browser) to find a 3:47 minute excerpt from the film, in which Carol does share a bit about her training and work for the CIA.
Below: Jeff Rivenbark, of America Now, recording the narration 

Director's Statement

Carol once told me she was good at compartmentalizing her professional and private life—and this film, like her life, has discrete parts. It is a spy-flick, a wedding-video, and a cancer-research promo. At first I fought to tie it all together by eliminating parts that didn’t fit a central vision or theme: I was particularly attached to some personal, Nancy-Drew-fueled idea of “heroism.” But I finally just rolled with whatever chapter of Carol’s life the interviewees were able to address. 


She had cancer. Her prognosis was poor. She hoped to live to see the film finished, and pushed hard to tie it all up and send it to the CIA for their legally-necessary approvals. In the meantime, we ran into some astonishing negativity about the project, especially after The Charlotte Observer printed a story about Carol and the film: some Christians didn’t like what they saw as the film’s “ pro-Muslim slant,” her weekly newspaper column was dropped as “too controversial,” the local university’s Saudi students were told by Saudi authorities they could not be interviewed, perhaps because, like other Muslims, they couldn’t or wouldn’t be associated publicly with a documentary favorable to a CIA agent; meanwhile, some former FBI and CIA agents in Charlotte said the film would never be approved, and finally there were a particularly passionate few who doubted openly that Carol Fleming had ever really been in the CIA.


She died during a nine-month delay while the CIA Publications Review Board did its bureaucratic thing—including a visit to my studio—but having met them, I can attest that Carol Fleming did, indeed, work for the CIA, and that they did approve of the film with only minimal changes. I am, in fact, certain that Carol Fleming contributed in significant ways to making America safer in the ‘90s, but she wasn’t allowed to talk about it and never did. 


“Valor,” I think, is what we call that kind of quiet, non-bravado heroism. I learned to rethink my own “compartmentalized” notion of heroism in the making of this film. I hope those who see it rethink theirs.