Last night I watched the Lion of the Desert by the late Mustapha Akkad. Very recently I'd also seen his other film, The Message and in both films I was highly impressed by his attention to detail and devotion to historical accuracy. In particular, I enjoyed that he had provided non-Western heroes and role models that one can identify with and actually like and that he had managed to avoid any and all stereotypes. The movies are classics in the Middle East, yet many Westerners and those ideologically inclined towards them, seemed markedly uncomfortable in seeing White European armies being defeated by bands of charging Arabs. Not to mention that the heroes were also Arabs. Both films are available here at Play.com in a 2 DVD set or seperately. They've also got an Arabic version of the Message, sweet.
Two scenes in the Lion of the Desert caught my attention and the script was incredibly powerful.
Omar Al Mukhtar tells his men not to shoot the prisoners.
They protest saying ,"but they do that to us!".
To which Al Mukhtar answers,"...they are not our teachers."
I just instinctively thought how we too must remember, the Americans, the Israelis, the mukhabarat, the Arab governments, Al Qaeda.... all of them, "They are not our teachers...."
Directly after that, Al Mukhtar gives back the captured Italian flag to the young Italian officer, " Tell your General" he says, ".. this flag does not belong here." Again, a message to Israel, America and any other imperial power that has tried its adventures in the Middle East.
I don't know why Mr Akkad never followed through with more such movies, but these movies form a part of his legacy and a contribution to his people. In a bitter twist of fate he was killed in terrorist bombings by Al Qaeda in Jordan a few years back along with his daughter. These attacks were directly a result of a renewed foreign occupation of Arab lands.... how we need an Omar Al Mukhtar now to teach us.