Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lion of the Desert

After we learned that Mustapha Akkad, the Syrian-American Hollywood director, was killed in the Amman bombings, the class I direct and I decided we wanted to learn more about him by watching some of his films.

We're reading The Road to Mecca by Muhammad Asad. In the last section of the book, Asad recalls a daring and heroic mission in 1931 to speak with Omar Mukhtar, 73-year-old schoolteacher, member of the Sanusi religious order, and for 20 years a tireless armed resister of the Italian conquest of Libya. Asad has to get through Egypt and cross the desert before he can meet with Omar, who's holed up in a mountain hideout.

It was with real pleasure that we watched Lion of the Desert, Akkad's 1981 film starring Anthony Quinn as Sidi Omar and Oliver Reed as his nemesis, General Graziani. The film shows how a determined, well organized group of guerillas can hold off a powerful army for years. Those who consider IED's (improvized explosive devices, AKA "roadside bombs") to be a recent innovation should see the film.

Favorite quotation by the overacting Reed:
"Sometimes when you're strong, peace takes on the nature of conquest."

Favorite Quinn quotations:
"They destroy our homes and you call it peace. I will not be corrupted by that man's peace."
"We will never surrender. We will win, or we will die."

Check out Juan Cole's brilliant synthesis of (1) Akkad's career as director of grand Muslim epics and (2) producer of the Halloween horror series, and (3) the life of his ultimate killer, al-Zarqawi and (4) the war guerilla war/media spin in Iraq.

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